New Insights and Directions for Religious Epistemology

Congratulations to John Hawthorne, editor of Philosophical Perspectives, for his recent grant award from the John Templeton Foundation! Prof. Hawthorne will lead a project titled “New Insights and Directions for Religious Epistemology” that seeks to revitalize the field by drawing on recent developments in mainstream epistemology. Valued at £1.3 million, the award will support three postdoctoral researchers, three PhD students, 22 visiting research fellowships, nine public lectures, four roundtable discussions, six workshops, and a major international conference.

Dialectica presents a FREE virtual issue!

dialectica cover, June 2011Founded in 1947, dialectica is the official journal of the European Society for Analytic Philosophy (ESAP), publishing first-rate articles predominantly in theoretical and systematic philosophy. Although edited in Switzerland with a focus on analytical philosophy undertaken on the continent, dialectica publishes articles from all over the world and has a truly global relevance. It is ranked A on the European Research Index for the Humanities of the European Science Foundation. Click here to view recent submission statistics and here to read some highlights from the journal over the years.

Continuing the work of its founding members, dialectica seeks a better understanding of the mutual support between science and philosophy and promotes that both disciplines need and enjoy in their common search for understanding. In this exciting virtual issue, the editorial team has selected some recent articles to showcase content from dialectica that particularly reflects the journal’s relevance to a US audience. These articles are representative of the many domains in which dialectica publishes, from ontology to epistemology and philosophy of mind or the theory of rationality. dialectica has recently published special issues on vectors, concepts, emotions, colours, and the philosophy of Kit Fine. We are confident that you will find this virtual issue interesting and informative.

Two Defenses of Common-Sense Ontology
Uriah Kriegel

Paderewski Variations
R. Mark Sainsbury

The Model-Theoretic Argument against Quantifying over Everything
Iris Einheuser

Relation-Based Thought, Objectivity and Disagreement
Christopher Peacocke

A Tale of Two Vectors
Marc Lange

On Some Recent Criticisms of the ‘Linguistic’ Approach to Ontology
Matti Eklund

Against Universal Mereological Composition
Crawford Elder

Rationality, Reasoning and Group Agency
Philip Pettit

Towards a Neo-Aristotelian Mereology
Kathrin Koslicki

Response to Kathrin Koslicki
Kit Fine

If you enjoyed these articles, why not activate a free 30-day trial to dialectica?

dialectica, official journal of ESAP

What would it take for you to believe?

Would this be sufficient...?

What would it take for you to believe? It’s an interesting question to put to any atheist, and often the answer can come as quite a surprise…to them. Given that you are aware of the arguments for God’s existence and find them to be un-compelling, which of any of the standard religious experiences would manage to make a believer out of you? A voice from the heavens? “I would probably dismiss that as some sort of audible illusion. Probably thunder, or an airplane, that I’m mishearing and falsely interpreting as a voice.” A direct appearance, before your very eyes, of an angel, or even of God Himself? “Likewise, I’d think I was hallucinating. I’d probably ask myself what I’d eaten that day! Or who had spiked my drink!” What if the apparition came back day after day, and you knew there was no extraneous cause? “Then I’d think that I had gone mad.” Really, the answer is that for many atheists there is simply nothing that they could experience that could convert them from their position. And then they are surprised when they meet the exact same attitude in their theistic opponents!

So, considering this, a sentence caught my eye recently in the abstract for an article on ‘Militant Modern Atheism’ that I happened to stumble across; in talking about the contemporary debate between theists and atheists, “The challenge [for the militant modern atheist] is to develop a well-articulated and convincing version of secular humanism.” This is followed by, “Meeting that challenge is, I claim, one of the central problems of philosophy today.” The author is sensibly responding to the deficiencies of the particular variety of ‘militant modern atheism’, and is pointing out that they need to offer a little more, by way of an incentive to the believer that they wish to persuade to their position, than merely Continue reading “What would it take for you to believe?”

The Authority of Testimony

Whom do you trust?

Of the many potential pieces of knowledge I have gained this week, numbering amongst them are the facts that the late Pope John Paul II was responsible for a miracle, and that U.S. Special Forces killed Osama Bin Laden. These stories are presented to me, and I must somehow decide whether to accept them or not. Enter epistemology.

WARNING: CRACKPOT CONSPIRACY THEORY ALERT! On Monday, over a million people crowded the streets of Rome to celebrate and witness the beatification of the late Pope John Paul II. One of the requirements for such a beatification is the confirmed attribution of a miracle to the “blessed” one in question. This requirement was satisfactorily fulfilled by the testimony of a nun, Marie Simon-Pierre, who claimed that she had been miraculously cured of Parkinson’s Disease by the supernatural intervention of John Paul’s spirit. Now, denounce me as a sceptic if you wish, but I’m just not sure that this is entirely reliable. Continue reading “The Authority of Testimony”

Birther Beliefs

Photo by Michele Sandberg

Despite all evidence to the contrary, many Americans apparently believe that Obama was not born in the United States and is thus not a natural U.S. Citizen.  Presidential hopeful Donald Trump is one of them.  In recent interviews, Trump stated that he has doubts about whether Obama really is a U.S. citizen.  “All of a sudden,” he confesses, “a lot of facts are emerging and I’m starting to wonder myself whether or not he was born in this country.”

Popular discussions of the merits of Birther beliefs raise a bunch of philosophical questions worth considering.  One epistemological question is particularly pressing: is anyone justified in believing that Obama was not born in the United States?
This is a normative question, since it is a question about what we ought to believe.  Epistemologists tend to fall into two camps when it comes to offering normative accounts of justification.

The Death of Philosophy?

Philosophy is dead. Or, more specifically, the philosophy of science is dead.

This is the controversial conclusion Professor Stephen Hawking has now famously (or infamously, if you’re a philosopher) come to in his latest popular work The Grand Design. Hawking claims that which was once in the realm of philosophy is now in that of science. He went on to say that philosophy has failed to keep up with science in general and physics in particular (a strange claim, seeing as physics, as noble a pursuit as it is, was spawned by philosophical curiosity). He goes on to say that philosophers have lingered on concepts such as the theory of knowledge, the foundations of knowledge, what can and cannot be known, the problem of induction etc for too long. As someone who’s main interest area is early modern metaphysics, I am not out of the woods but I am casting a sidewards glance to the epistemologist, regarding these main criticisms of Hawking against philosophy.

Continue reading “The Death of Philosophy?”

Do Monkeys Know When They Don’t Know?

Do monkeys bathe for pleasure, or because the warm waters are ideal for introspection?

Communication with animals is difficult. It has been over one hundred years since Pavlov, and our main form of inter-species communication remains food pellets. Philosophical aphorisms like Wittgenstein’s “If a lion could talk, we would not be able to understand him” are either shown to obtain daily in research labs, or are many years from being challenged.

Still, a study conducted by Smith and Beran, presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has revealed behaviour in macaque monkeys that would seem to betoken the capacity to experience doubt– opening a window into the mental lives of these animals.

Self-doubt is an interesting mental state in that it necessitates Continue reading “Do Monkeys Know When They Don’t Know?”