Joshua L. Rasmussen Archives



More Generally: Contemporary Thinkers (193)

June 26, 2019

Pruss and Rasmussen's Necessary Existence: Conclusion and Table of Posts

Pruss and Rasmussen conclude with an appendix providing "a slew of arguments" for the claim that there is a necessary being. These arguments are, for the most part, presented without defense or other comment, and it is clear that the authors do not actually endorse the premises of all of them. However, they contribute to the book's broader purpose of showing that the existence of a necessary being is difficult to avoid, and that determination to avoid it commits one to some substantive philosophical views. Every one of Pruss and Rasmussen's arguments leaves open certain paths for the opponent to...
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June 25, 2019

Pruss and Rasmussen on Arguments Against a Necessary Being

Many philosophers find the premises of at least some arguments for the existence of a necessary being attractive, but regard the existence of a necessary being either as itself absurd or as having absurd consequences. Pruss and Rasmussen's ninth and final chapter therefore considers a series of six arguments against a necessary being. For the most part, the responses have a common structure. An opponent employs certain principles of logic, epistemology, or semantics connected with possibility and necessity to argue against the existence of a necessary being. Pruss and Rasmussen respond by showing how those same principles can be employed...
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June 24, 2019

Pruss and Rasmussen on the Gödelian Ontological Argument

Pruss and Rasmussen's eighth chapter focuses on the Gödelian ontological argument, which is so-called because it is based on some unpublished notes by the mathematician Kurt Gödel. Pruss has already written extensively on this argument, and it is safe to say that he is recognized as its foremost proponent today. The argument here (in contrast to Pruss's previous treatments, and also to the original Gödel notes, and the influential treatment by Sobel) is presented with the bare minimum of technical apparatus and should be accessible to anyone familiar with the basics of sentential logic. Along the way, the chapter includes...
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June 21, 2019

Pruss and Rasmussen on the Argument from Necessary Abstracta

Pruss and Rasmussen's seventh chapter puts forward an argument for the existence of a necessary concrete being from the existence of necessary abstracta. They connect this strategy with an argument of Leibniz's. The Leibnizian argument, usually known as the 'argument from necessary truths', is to some extent known in the contemporary literature, but it has not become part of the standard list of arguments for the existence of God. (For instance, it is not discussed in Jordan Howard Sobel's Logic and Theism or Graham Oppy's Arguing About Gods.) Leibniz himself always seems to run through this argument very fast, and...
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June 20, 2019

Pruss and Rasmussen on Modal Uniformity

Pruss and Rasmussen's sixth chapter is entitled "From Modal Uniformity." Based on the general format of the book, one might have expected a new argument for a necessary being from modal uniformity, but that is not exactly what happens in this chapter. Rather, a principle of modal uniformity is offered in support of the possibility premises employed by the previous arguments. The general idea behind principles of modal uniformity is that certain kinds of differences in propositions look modally irrelevant. That is, we don't expect these differences to lead to a difference in modal status. Pruss and Rasmussen focus on...
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June 19, 2019

Pruss and Rasmussen's Second Argument from Possible Causes

Traditional cosmological arguments typically include a premise about what things have causes or explanations. Modal cosmological arguments rely instead on a premise about what things could have causes or explanations. The aim of Pruss and Rasmussen's fifth chapter is to uncover the weakest/safest/most modest principle about possible causes that can be used to construct a valid modal cosmological argument. They arrive at the following (I retain their numbering): The W Principle: normally, for any property P, if (i) P can begin to be exemplified, (ii) P can have instances that have a cause; (iii) P is basic or a determinate...
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June 18, 2019

Pruss and Rasmussen's First Argument from Possible Causes

Pruss and Rasmussen's fourth chapter discusses what the authors variously describe as a "modal cosmological argument" or "argument from possible causes". Although this type of argument has received some discussion in the recent philosophy of religion literature, it is much less well known than the classical argument from contingency discussed in chapter three, and the dialectic of objections and replies is much less well-worn. The idea behind this kind of argument is that since the modal system S5 defended in chapter two validates the inference from possibly there is a necessary being to there is a necessary being, it suffices...
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June 17, 2019

Pruss and Rasmussen on the Argument from Contingency

Pruss and Rasmussen's third chapter begins the book's main project, the examination of arguments for a necessary being. They describe the argument presented here as "classical," in contrast to the "newer, more sophisticated" arguments they will discuss later (p. 33). The argument they present is indeed pretty similar to versions that would be found in a typical survey of philosophy of religion. However, the discussion of the argument is careful and sophisticated, and it does show how the considerations about modality discussed in chapter 2 can help to improve our understanding of the argument, and in particular to answer some...
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June 14, 2019

Pruss and Rasmussen on Modal Logic

Chapter two of Pruss and Rasmussen's Necessary Existence can be seen as preliminary to the main project of the book. The core aim of the chapter is the explanation and defense of a picture of metaphysical modality that is already (so it seems to me) standard among analytic metaphysicians. The chapter concludes with a brief demonstration of a proposition that will be a crucial lemma in many of the arguments throughout the book: if a necessary being is possible, then a necessary being is actual. Those who are already immersed in analytic metaphysics and accept the modal system S5 could...
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June 13, 2019

Introduction to Pruss and Rasmussen, Necessary Existence

One of my projects this summer is a review of Alexander Pruss and Joshua Rasmussen's Necessary Existence for American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly. I read the book for the first time a few months ago, but I'm now working through it more carefully in preparation for writing the review. I've often found it helpful in the past to write a blog post about each chapter of a book and then condense them into a review, and I'll be doing that here over the next couple of weeks. The project of the book is to investigate arguments for the claim that there...
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