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2014 Waco Presentations

Ninth Annual Philosophy of Religion Conference

Waco, TX

April 10-12, 2014

See the conference schedule.


Charity Anderson - "Defeat, Testimony, and Miracles"

In this paper, I discuss the rationality of believing a miracle report. I examine the extent to which defeat plays a role in the kind of argument Hume advances against rational belief in a miracle on the basis of testimony, and then discuss how recent work on the notion of defeat might affect how one reconstructs and responds to Hume's argument.

Matt Benton - "Divine Epistemology Personalized"

An underexplored area of epistemology is knowledge of persons: if propositional knowledge is a state of mind, consisting in a subject's attitude to a (true) proposition, the account I argue for thinks of 'interpersonal' knowledge as a state of minds, involving a subject's attitude to another (existing) subject. I argue that this kind of knowledge is distinct from propositional knowledge, and that it exhibits gradability and shifty thresholds. I then consider under what conditions God would have interpersonal knowledge, both of God's creatures and within the Trinity.

Meghan Dupree - "The Physics of a Believer: Duhemian Reflections on the Boundaries of Science"

One consequence of Pierre Duhem's philosophy of science is that the claims of physical theory are incapable of contradicting the metaphysical components of Catholic doctrine. It has been suggested that this consequence is no accident: certain scholars allege Duhem's religious piety heavily influences his understanding of the scientific endeavor, and his observations of physical theory are palatable only to those who share in his religious faith. In Physics of a Believer, Duhem defends himself against such charges, insisting that the physics he professes is independent of any form of Christian prejudice. In this paper, I connect Duhem's arguments with concrete examples in the history of science, supporting his assertion that his view is grounded in authentic empirical concern. I further illustrate how these case studies suggest an important moral for philosophers of religion: although physical theories are not metaphysical theories, we cannot ignore their ontological importance.

Robert Garcia - "The Nature of Creaturely Properties in a World Sustained by God"

In this paper I work towards a synthesis of two seemingly remote issues. The first concerns the metaphysics of divine providence and, more specifically, the way in which God continually sustains creatures in existence, or divine sustenance. The second issue concerns the metaphysics of creaturely properties and, more specifically, the status and nature of unshareable properties, or tropes. I propose and motivate the thesis that the properties of creatures are identical to the acts that constitute divine sustenance. Such an act/property is a non-shareable character-grounding, an act whereby God directly characterizes a specific creature. As such, each act appears to satisfy the definition of what I call a modifier trope. In my view, a modifier trope theory is the better of two types of trope theory (the other being a module trope theory). Nevertheless, modifier trope theory faces a number of challenges which can be overcome (or at least mitigated) by identifying modifier tropes with divine sustainings/characterizings. In addition, as a theory of sustenance, the proposed thesis has unique resources for overcoming (or at least mitigating) some of the traditional worries about the nature of providence. Thus, this view uses the notion of a modifier trope to illuminate the nature of sustenance and uses divine sustenance to shed light on the nature of modifier tropes.

Alan Hájek - "Begging to Differ with Similarity Accounts of Counterfactuals"

Widespread agreement among philosophers on a given topic is rare. However, it is enjoyed by similarity accounts of counterfactuals. Roughly, they say that the counterfactual
if p were the case, q would be the case is true
at the closest p-worlds, q is true.
I disagree with such accounts, for many reasons.

Bradley Rettler - "Merelogical Nihilism (Nearly) Unmotivated"

Mereological nihilism is the view that no objects have any proper parts. Mereological nihilism is at odds with our ordinary beliefs, because it says that either tables, chairs, and hats don't exist, or they don't have any proper parts. But many people think it's obvious that they do exist, and it's equally obvious that they do have proper parts. One might wonder, then, why anyone would accept mereological nihilism. The main reason is that mereological nihilism solves a number of puzzles in metaphysics—coincidence puzzles, the Sorites paradox, problems of overdetermination, considerations of arbitrariness, the Ship of Theseus, and the problem of indeterminate identity. In this paper, I argue that for every puzzle that mereological nihilism solves, there is a similar puzzle that mereological nihilism does not solve. So, the mereological nihilist must give a new solution to these puzzles, and since those solutions apply mutatis mutandis to the original puzzles, the original puzzles provide no motivation to be a mereological nihilist.

Lindsay Rettler - "Reason-Responsiveness and Voluntary Influence"

I examine a prominent view of doxastic control and argue that it does not explain the phenomenon of attributing doxastic blame to believing agents. According to a Reason-Responsiveness View of doxastic control, we have control over our beliefs because we have the ability to respond to reasons in the formation and maintenance of our beliefs. Advocates of Reason-Responsiveness Views are often unclear about what is meant by reason-responsiveness, and how this ability could amount to control. I distinguish three ways in which an advocate of the Reason-Responsiveness View might be interpreting what it means to respond to reasons: (i) mere sensitivity to reasons, (ii) passive critical reflection, and (iii) active critical reflection. I argue that the first two capacities are not the kind of control necessary to explain doxastic blame, while the third capacity is. However, I argue that active critical reflection is in fact a kind of practical control, so it is not merely responsiveness to reasons that explains doxastic blame.

Jeroen de Ridder - "The Argument From Scale"

Considerations of scale appear high on the list of intuitive evidence against theism. Many people confess to finding the sheer spatial and temporal vastness of the universe and the seemingly insignificant place that human beings occupy in the universe's space and time telling evidence against theism. Surely, if God wanted there to be intelligent life, our universe would have looked very different. As far as we know, however, these considerations have received scant attention in the philosophical literature. In this paper, we explore the prospects of developing these intuitive considerations of scale into an argument against theism. We attempt various possible reconstructions of the argument, ultimately arguing that none of them are successful. We also investigate the possibility that serious awareness of the vastness of the universe offers non-inferential support for atheism and argue that this, too, is a dead end. The upshot is that the intuitive appeal of considerations from scale does not survive critical scrutiny.

Blake Roeber - "Disagreement, Spinelessness, and the Value of Information"

In this talk, I sketch of view of the epistemic significance of disagreement, and apply that view to areas of inquiry like philosophy, politics, and religion, where disagreement is rife. To do this, I distinguish between believing a view and championing it, where championing a view consists in defending it as the most probable of sufficiently informative competing views. I argue that the value of information takes the edge off of disagreement. Because we don't just need truths, but informative truths, the widespread disagreement we find in areas like philosophy, politics and religion will rarely take us out of position to rationally champion our favoured views, and it might often leave us in position to rationally believe our favoured views. This latter claim will be especially plausible for religious disagreements.

Miriam Schoenfield - "A Dilemma For Calibrationism"

The aim of this paper is to describe a problem for calibrationism—a view proposed in debates about higher order evidence, according to which one's credences should be calibrated to one's expected degree of reliability. Calibrationism, while intuitively plausible, faces a dilemma: There are two versions of the view one might adopt. The first version, I argue, makes rationality too cheap, while the second is unmotivated. At the end of the paper, I sketch a possible solution.

Jason Turner - "A (Broadly) Tractarian Theory of Modality"

Among the metaphysical commitments of Wittgenstein's Tractatus are (i) that 'The world is the totality of facts, not things' (1.1) and (ii) that possibilities are 'combinations of facts' (4.25-4.3). These two commitments suggest an intriguing metaphysical picture. Historically, that picture was abandoned because it faced two problems: the problem of necessitism, which was that it made everything exist as a matter of necessity; and the colour exclusion problem, which was that it ruled as possible situations which surely should be impossible. In this presentation I describe one method for building a metaphysical theory that respects Tractarian commitments (i) and (ii). I then show how it also faces the problems of necessitism and colour exclusion, and discuss strategies with which it might overcome them.