May 2, 2016
Philosophy and 'Depth'
There is a kind of philosophy, or pseudo-philosophy, whose principal aim is to create a certain feeling of 'depth,' often without very much real content. Of course, this phenomenon is hardly restricted to philosophy, nor is it even, I think, a very widespread feature of the academic discipline of philosophy. Still, I call it a kind of philosophy or pseudo-philosophy because this feeling of 'depth' or profundity is very closely connected to how the words 'philosophy' and 'philosophical' are often used in common (i.e., non-academic) parlance. But is this feeling of 'depth' always purely illusory? Can there be something genuinely...
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April 9, 2016
Quote of the Day: Cavendish on Philosophical Disagreement
I have not contradicted those Authors [modern philosophers] in any thing, but what concerns and is opposite to my opinions; neither do I any thing, but what they have done themselves, as being common amongst them to contradict each other: which may as well be allowable, as for Lawyers to plead at the Barr in opposite Causes. For as Lawyers are not Enemies to each other, but great Friends, all agreeing from the Barr, although not at the Barr: so it is with Philosophers who make their Opinions as their Clients, not for Wealth, but for Fame, and therefore have...
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August 3, 2012
Quote of the Day: Augustine on Philosophy
Many things certainly do I muse upon in this earthly tabernacle, because the one thing which is true among the many, or beyond the many, I cannot find.
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- Augustine, City of God, tr. Dods, 12.15
April 12, 2012
Philosophy of Religion and Apologetics
Philosophy of religion, as practiced by religious believers, is often confused with apologetics. (Perhaps it is even so confused, on occasion, by some of its practitioners.) Indeed, if we use the term 'apologetics' more broadly, to include not just the giving of an apologia (defense) of religion, but of just any belief system, then we could say that philosophy in general is often confused with apologetics. This is, I think, a serious mistake. The philosopher, qua philosopher, is up to something quite different than the apologist, qua apologist. The 'qua' clauses are necessary, because of course the same person may...
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October 6, 2011
Quote of the Day: Philosophers and Platitudes
It is the profession of philosophers to question platitudes that others accept without thinking twice. A dangerous profession, since philosophers are more easily discredited than platitudes.
David Lewis, Convention, p. 1
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June 7, 2010
Why Listen to 'Continental' Philosophers?
In a recent edition of Faith and Philosophy (the October 2009 edition, to be exact), there is an exchange between James K. A. Smith and Bruce Ellis Benson about what can or should be done to improve 'Continental' philosophy of religion. The discussion focuses on the reduction of 'enclaves' - i.e. on getting 'Continental' philosophy of religion into mainstream venues, and having dialogue with mainstream (analytic) philosophy of religion. Now, something about this exchange struck me as rather odd: the exchange takes place in a mainstream venue, a philosophy of religion journal read mostly by analytic philosophers. Yet the exchange...
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February 2, 2010
Quote of the Day: G. E. Moore on Philosophical Arguments
It may be thought that my contention is unimportant, but that is no ground for thinking that I am not in the right. What I am concerned with is knowledge only - that we should think correctly and so far arrive at some truth, however unimportant: I do not say that such knowledge will make us more useful members of society. If any one does not care for knowledge for its own sake, then I have nothing to say to him; only it should not be though that a lack of interest in what I have to say is any ground for holding it untrue (G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica, sect. 37).
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December 8, 2009
Why are There So Few Atheist/Agnostic Philosophers of Religion?
The results of a survey
of the opinions of professional philosophers on philosophical topics were released today, and Trent Dougherty has some interesting discussion of some philosophy of religion numbers at The Prosblogion
. I was recently bemoaning
the scarcity of atheist/agnostic philosophers of religion. The survey numbers back me up: among philosophy faculty at top English-speaking universities, only 14.6% said they "accept" or "lean toward" theism. However, among faculty whose main area of specialization is philosophy of religion, that number was 72.3%.
Now, it's hardly surprising that atheists and agnostics don't feel the desire to dedicate their entire careers to investigating religious claims...
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August 8, 2009
On Pop Philosophers
What exactly is a pop philosopher, and what distinguishes a pop philosopher from a philosopher simpliciter? This question has been on my mind due to trying to explain to people why certain very good pop philosophers, such as C.S. Lewis, are nevertheless not very good philosophers. I will try here to explain what I take the difference to be. It should first be noted that both 'philosopher' and 'pop philosopher' are agency nouns. As such, they are attributed accidentally (inessentially) to a person in virtue of her involvement in certain activities: one person is called a 'butcher' in virtue of...
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April 3, 2009
Apologetics: The Good and the Bad
I have been meaning for some time to write a post about apologetics: not to engage in it - though I do that sometimes - but to examine it as a practice. Brandon's recent post, "On Controversial Blogging and Temperament,"
touches some of the same issues I have been thinking about, so I thought that I would build on it.
To start from the beginning: 'apologetics' derives from the Greek apologia
, meaning 'defense' (as, for instance, a court-room defense), and it means just that: the giving of reasoned defenses. Christians often talk about the importance of engaging in apologetics...
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February 17, 2009
On Christian Higher Education
There is an argument raging on Leiter Reports
about the APA's non-discrimination statement and the policies of certain Christian colleges and universities. Wheaton College, Azusa Pacific University, Belmont University, Calvin College, Malone College, and Pepperdine University are listed as institutions that allegedly violate the APA's non-discrimination statements with their policies about homosexuality. A pair
on The Prosblogion
offer some helpful reflections. What I want to try to do here is analyze in light of this issue the question of what Christian higher education ought to look like.
To start with, let me distinguish three types of goals...
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November 11, 2008
Does Philosophy 'Trickle Down'?
One of the interesting things about George Berkeley as a historical figure is that he labors under the peculiar belief that he is writing philosophy out of pastoral
concerns. I like to illustrate Berkeley's purposes by reference to the subtitles he gave to his works. The Treatise on the Principles of Human Knowledge
is subtitled, "wherein the Chief Causes of Error and Difficulty in the Sciences
, with the Grounds of Scepticism, Atheism, and Irreligion, are inquired into." Berkeley thinks he has discovered two philosophical doctrines which are indeed "the Chief Causes of Error and Difficulty in the Sciences
" and also "the Grounds of Scepticism, Atheism, and Irreligion." These are the epistemic/linguistic doctrine of abstraction
, and the metaphysical doctrine of corporeal substance
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April 27, 2008
The Adversarial Method in Philosophy
Brandon points to
a collection of posts at Feminist Philosophers
on the subject of "philosophy as a blood sport"
. Apparently the phrase comes from this article.
The latest discussion seems to have been occasioned by a post by Brian Leiter
who is not particularly known for his civility, and apparently thinks this is all a big joke. In this post, I will not focus on the question of whether this has anything to do (either as cause or effect) with philosophy being male dominated. The reason for this is that that question would only be relevant in very specific circumstances, and I do not think these circumstances obtain...
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April 21, 2008
Philosophy is Analytic
It seems that Alexander Pruss
(also of Prosblogion
fame) has set off a bit of a firestorm
(there is a list of links at Siris
) on the subject of the history of philosophy and the analytic-Continental divide. He has been criticized for making statements about Continental philosophy and then admitting that he doesn't know much about it. I'm going to try to be careful here, because I'm certainly no expert on Continental philosophy myself, but I do want to enter into the fray with a few observations.
I've titled this post "Philosophy is Analytic." Let me begin by clarifying what I mean by that...
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April 28, 2007
"Common Sense," "Pre-Theoretical Intuitions," and Philosophy
I am presently reading Peter van Inwagen's Material Beings
(I'm not sure if it's going to actually help with my very strange philosophy of religion term paper wherein I argue that idealism is compatible with a belief in the bodily resurrection of the dead, or if I'm just procrastinating). In section 10, after denying that there are, in metaphysical rigor, any artifacts (i.e. inanimate macrophysical objects, such as chairs), van Inwagen makes the following remark: Does my position not fly in the face of common sense? I do not think so. This is not because I think that my position is in accord with "common sense," but rather because I do not think that there is any such thing as the body of doctrine the philosophers call common sense...
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January 17, 2007
Quote of the Day
Philosophy of religion, I believe, is best viewed as a process of critical dialog... Such a critical dialog is risky. Probably everyone has heard a story of a student in a strict religious environment who loses his faith as a result of the critical challenges hurled at him at a university. But there is something unhealthy and even dishonest about a faith which hides from such a challenge. Can one really believe in God wholeheartedly and at the same time assert that one can only continue to believe by refusing to consider the evidence against one's belief? Such a "belief"...
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May 17, 2006
How to be a Christian Philosophy Professor
Douglas Groothuis, a philosophy professor at Denver Seminary has some interesting thoughts on Christianity, philosophy, and education in his article A Christian Philosophy of Education on his blog, The Constructive Curmudgeon. An excerpt: the necessary and sufficient conditions for being a philosopher are a strong and lived-out inclination to pursue truth about philosophical matters through the rigorous use of human reasoning, and the ability to do so with some intellectual facility. By �philosophical matters� I mean the enduring questions of life�s meaning, purpose, and value as they relate to all the major divisions of philosophy (primarily ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics)....
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May 2, 2006
What Is Philosophy? Ten Things Everyone Should Know
No less than three top ten lists of things everyone should know about philosophy have been published on philosophy blogs in recent days. The best of the three is at DuckRabbit. This list is entirely about how philosophy works, and not particular philosophical ideas the author thinks you should believe in. I think I agree with everything he says. The list that started it all is at Philosophy, et cetera. I don't much care for this list on the whole, because I don't think it's really a list of things people should know about philosophy (that is, it isn't about...
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