November 27, 2015

Deism, Anthropomorphism, and Religion

I'm just beginning to think about a reference article on deism that I'm writing for the Ian Ramsey Centre's Special Divine Action Project and it has me thinking about a rather curious phenomenon in early modern philosophy and religion: the complex interplay between deism and theological anthropomorphism. Presently, the term 'deism' is associated with the 'absent watchmaker' picture of God: a highly anthropomorphic conception of a divine engineer whose prime concern is the elegant mechanical design of the universe rather than moral qualities. This is a conception shaped by 18th century Anglophone deists. However, in his large and extremely carefully...
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November 21, 2015

"Counteressential Conditionals" in Thought

My paper "Counteressential Conditionals" has just been accepted (conditional on further revisions) by Thought. This is a revised and expanded version of a paper that I will be presenting at the Central APA in Chicago on March 3. The journal's self-archiving policy does not permit me to post the final version, so you'll have to wait on that, but the short version that will be presented at the APA is available here. This is a more or less straight metaphysics paper (my first!), but it fits in with my work in philosophy of religion/philosophical theology. These kind of conditionals play...
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November 10, 2015

"Leibniz and the Veridicality of Body Perceptions" in Philosophers' Imprint!

I've just received word that my paper, "Leibniz and the Veridicality of Body Perceptions," will be appearing in the (open access) journal Philosophers' Imprint!
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October 20, 2015

October 6, 2015

Quote of the Day: Mencius on Border Police

In antiquity, a border station was set up as a precaution against violence. Today it is set up to perpetrate violence.

- Mencius (4th cent. BCE), sect. 7B8, tr. Lau

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September 15, 2015

Sets and Possible Worlds

This semester I'm directing an independent study on modal logic with a couple of students with strong math background. Yesterday some questions about sets and possible worlds came up, so I wrote up some notes for my students on the subject. This blog post is adapted from those notes. Introduction The development of axiomatic set theory was launched by consideration of Russell's Paradox: let A be the set of all sets that do not contain themselves. Does A contain itself or not? (This was on Existential Comics just yesterday!) The collection of axioms mathematicians developed to avoid paradox has the...
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August 21, 2015

Between Incredulity and Superstition

A little essay on pedagogy I wrote is going out in the upcoming Lilly Network Communique. The essay takes off from the Berkeley quote that's been in the header of this blog for some time, so I thought I'd make it available here too. Between Incredulity and Superstition A Pedagogy of Uncertainty "Religion," George Berkeley once remarked, "is the virtuous mean between incredulity and superstition"(Alciphron, ยง5.6). In the context of Berkeley's Alciphron, this is little more than a throwaway line, but to me it suggests a promising account of an important intellectual virtue. I believe that growth in this virtue...
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August 18, 2015

XpressConnect, WPA Enterprise, and Debian

We interrupt our not-so-regularly scheduled philosophy to bring you this report about the travails of Linux users on university computer networks. The Situation My university is in the process of switching its wireless network to WPA enterprise with EAP-TLS. As I understand it, this move buys significant advantages in wireless security at the expense of more complicated client-side configuration. In particular, each client has to generate a public/private key pair for cryptography. Also, a public CA certificate has to be installed to allow the client to recognize legitimate nodes on the university network. Needless to say, doing this kind of...
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Topic(s): Technology
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July 22, 2015

"Mereological Idealism"

I've posted a new draft on my writings page, "Mereological Idealism." This paper is expected to appear in a collection of essays on idealism in contemporary metaphysics that Tyron Goldschmidt and I are editing for Oxford University Press....
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June 15, 2015

Understanding Sentences: Port-Royal, Locke, and Berkeley

According to the Port-Royal Logic, "words are distinct and articulated sounds that people have made into signs to indicate what takes place in the mind" (Buroker 74). Similarly, according to Locke, the use of language requires that one ``be able to use [articulate] Sounds, as Signs of internal Conceptions; and to make them stand as marks for the Ideas within his own Mind, whereby they might be made known to others, and the Thoughts of Men's Minds be conveyed from one to another" (EHU 3.1.2). Passages like these support Berkeley's interpretation of his predecessors as holding that, in the proper...
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May 19, 2015

Molinism and Circularity

Yesterday, I discussed Thomas Flint's response to the grounding objection in chapter 5 of Divine Providence: The Molinist Account. Today, I want to discuss his response to Robert Adams in chapter 7. Adams' objection turns on a notion of explanatory priority which, Flint complains, is not adequately defined. Flint argues that there is an equivocation in the argument, and that Adams relies on a transitivity assumption which is not plausible when applied across the different sorts of priority involved. I think, however, that Flint is mistaken on both counts: first, the notion in question is not equivocal. Rather, it is...
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May 18, 2015

Future Contingents and the Grounding Objection to Molinism

In chapter 5 of Divine Providence: The Molinist Account (1998), Thomas Flint defends a response to the grounding objection which he attributes to Alfred Freddoso. According to the Flint-Freddoso line, there are difficulties about future contingents which are exactly parallel to the difficulties about counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, and solutions to the problems about future contingents can be adapted to provide equally plausible solutions to the problems about counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. This claim is false. The exact formulation of the grounding objection is a little tricky. Some philosophers take it to be based on the (questionable) assumption of some...
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May 11, 2015

Some Reflections on Teaching Modern Philosophy

I have just finished teaching the survey of early modern philosophy for the first time. Here at Valpo, this course is required for philosophy majors and minors and is offered at the 200 (sophomore) level. There are a lot of ways to teach a class like this, and a lot of opinions about which ways are better, so I wanted to offer here a description of what I did and how I think it worked. (If there's anything really surprising in my evaluations when I get them at the end of this week, I may come back and revisit some...
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April 12, 2015

What Science-Fiction is About

The Hugo Award is one of the longest-running and most prestigious awards in Science-Fiction. As some readers may by now be aware there is a major controversy regarding this year's award process: a right-wing group organized a campaign against 'social justice' inspired nominees and was mostly successful in getting their own slate nominated. Some people have called for "No Award" votes in all categories. It's always hard to say what (or whom) an award like this is supposed to be for, and that's part of what the so-called 'Sad Puppies' group says this controversy is about. However, given the group's...
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March 25, 2015

"Matter, God, and Nonsense: Berkeley's Polemic Against the Freethinkers in the Three Dialogues"

I have posted a new draft to my writings page, "Matter, God, and Nonsense: Berkeley's Polemic Against the Freethinkers in the Three Dialogues". The final version of the paper is expected to appear in Berkeley's Three Dialogues: New Essays, ed. Stefan Storrie (Oxford University Press). In the meantime, comments are welcome.
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