Sunday, May 15, 2022

Explaining the sixth commandment

 Does the moral requirement not to kill innocent people require explanation? If so, what would it be? If you say that God has commanded us not to kill innocent people, what is His explanation for why he gave such a command. (The Bible does seem to include commands to kill innocent people, see I Sam. 15:3 as an example). Can he justify the Sixth Commandment? If so, how? If he can't, is his commandment invalid?

One response to this would be to ask "Are you saved? If you were, why would you dare ask such a question?" I find that the more I understand why something is wrong, the easier it is for me to avoid doing what is wrong.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The similarity between polytheism and atheism

 A famous quote from Stephen Roberts says "I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” If you look at that quotation, it would appear that monotheism is more similar to atheism than polytheism. But in another important sense, atheism and polytheism are similar. Both polytheists and atheists believe that what controls events in the universe, what will determine everyone’s ultimate destiny, has not interest in right or wrong. The causal structure of the world is morally indifferent, in the case of polytheism because there are many deities but none with ultimate power or moral authority, and in the case of atheism because events in the universe are ultimately purposeless, and once again no being is morally authoritative. The monotheistic religions and philosophies maintain, by contrast, that events in the universe are aimed at a moral purpose, moving toward a final triumph of righteousness.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Hugh Chandler, RIP

My doctoral dissertation advisor, Hugh Chandler, passed away on New Year's day. Most professional philosophers would have discouraged me from writing a dissertation on C. S. Lewis's argument against naturalism, but Chandler directed mine. Our numerous conversations made my defense of Lewis's argument possible. 

Friday, April 29, 2022

Tax fairness and the "free" market

 How free is our market, really? Let's look at that tax loophole mentioned in this article. Corporations have to be taxed one way or another. Why not tax them in such a way that they are encouraged to pay their executives in an ethical manner?

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Logic: An extra-sensory perception?

 The cat is on the mat. That's a relation. I perceive the cat on top and the mat below it. Now, without any of our five sense to produce this perception, we somehow perceive entailment relationships. We don't have science, mathematics, or philosophical arguments for naturalism unless we can do this. As Lewis puts it, it must be the case that one thought can cause another thought not by being, but by being seen to be a ground for it. That mean's the fact of A's being the ground for B, or even A's entailing B, has to be central to the production of our belief that B. But if look at the forces in the universe that physicalism allows, that kind of fact is ruled out as a possible cause for anything. We have a perception of logical relationship, and since it can't be a sensory perception, it has to be an extra-sensory perception. How is THAT naturalistically possible?

Thursday, April 21, 2022

C. S. Lewis on homosexuality

 C. S. Lewis never abandoned the belief that homosexual conduct was wrong from a Christian standpoint. But he also never accepted the idea that there is something particularly bad about homosexuality as opposed to other kinds of sin. To hear many Christians talk, this is the one sin that makes God really angry, so angry that he sent down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. 

A lot of people see the entire source of opposition to homosexuality as coming from Christian conservatives. Yet Lewis thinks that the really virulent opposition to homosexuality comes from other sources. 

This is from Surprised by Joy. 

And that is why I cannot give pederasty anything like a first place among the evils of the Coll. There is much hypocrisy on this theme. People commonly talk as if every other evil were more tolerable than this. But why? Because those of us who do not share the vice feel for it a certain nausea, as we do, say, for necrophily? I think that of very little relevance to moral judgment. Because it produces permanent perversion? But there is very little evidence that it does. The Bloods would have preferred girls to boys if they could have come by them; when, at a later age, girls were obtainable, they probably took them. Is it then on Christian grounds? But how many of those who fulminate on the matter are in fact Christians? And what Christian, in a society as worldly and cruel as that of Wyvern, would pick out the carnal sins for special reprobation? Cruelty is surely more evil than lust and the World at least as dangerous as the Flesh. The real reason for all the pother is, in my opinion, neither Christian nor ethical. We attack this vice not because it is the worst but because it is, by adult standards, the most disreputable and unmentionable, and happens also to be a crime in English law. The world may lead you only to Hell; but sodomy may lead you to jail and create a scandal, and lose you your job. The World, to do it justice, seldom does that.

For a discussion of this, see here. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Christianity's contributions

 The idea that Christianity has not made any contributions to science, mathematics, or medicine is puzzling. Of course, Christians have made enormous contribution to all three of these fields. Isaac Newton was no secular humanist. Of course, you can then say that just because Christians made a contribution doesn't mean that Christianity made a contribution, but you could make the same argument about atheism or agnosticism. The Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th Century happened on Christians' watch. Not on the watch of the Hindus or the Buddhists. C. S. Lewis said "Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator." Monotheism supplanted polytheism, and it is hard to imagine belief in a uniform system of natural laws if people really think the sky is run by Zeus and the sea is run by Poseidon.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

The Resurrection


  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-8: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance. Or you at the first: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas. That is, Peter and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."
Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Alvin Plantinga

This is a piece on Alvin Plantinga from Kelly James Clark. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Bronze Age Superstitions

 From Matthew Flannagan on Facebook: 

I often correspond with religious sceptics. Countless times I have been informed by people that they don't share my religious beliefs because, apparently unlike me, they are educated, intelligent free thinkers who don't believe in the bronze age stories found in the New and Old Testament.
I had another person inform me of this today.
Here is some friendly advice to people who confidently say things like that:
Suppose, I told you, that Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States during the renaissance period. Or imagine I told you that Martin Luther was a contemporary of Augustine of Hippo and lived during the fall of Rome. Would you take me seriously? I suspect you wouldn't. Comments like that would show I had no clue at all about historical events, didn't know the basic historical facts, and literally did not know what you were talking about.
In light of this, can you please take note of the following fact: the bronze age refers to the historical period which occurred from approximately 3300 BC to 1200 BC.

Friday, April 08, 2022

The value of money

Money is less valuable the more of it you have. The money you need to keep a roof over your head, food out your table, and keep your creditors paid contributes more to your well-being than the money you  have over and above that. So the money paid to wealthier people has less utility than it would have were it paid to people further down the economic scale. 

This helps to explain why Bernie Sanders is appealing to so many people. 

Political discomfort

 Political parties are coalitions of interests of various groups of people. Some of those interests coincide with Christianity and other do not. A politician who says, either explicitly (they normally aren't that stupid) or implicitly that "A vote for me (or my party) is a vote for Jesus" is blaspheming.

People need to read C. S. Lewis's Meditation on the Third Commandment. Over, and over and over, and over, and over.
Christianity will make you uncomfortable with the ideology of ANY party. If you are completely comfortable with the ideology of any party as a Christian, you are not thinking clearly.

Friday, April 01, 2022

Breaking News

 Breaking News: Biden admits election theft, will be vacating the Presidency in favor of Trump later today. Dominion CEO arrested on fraud charges.

Argument from explanatory vacuity

 On this old post I came up with an argument for atheism. It got over 300 comments. 

This is the argument. 

1) If Billy Graham were to fall ill, many Christians all over the world would pray for his recovery.
2) If Billy were to recover, they would all praise God and credit him with the healing.
3) If Billy were to die, they would say that it was not God’s will for Billy to recover.
4) But if God can be used to explain why something occurs but also why something does not occur, then it really does not explain it at all.
5) But if this is so, the appeal to God explains nothing.
6) If God explains nothing, then we should simply deny God’s existence.
7) Therefore, we should believe that God does not exist.

Monday, March 28, 2022

The golden rule

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  

So, if I wouldn't mind someone playing loud music at 3 AM in the next apartment, it is OK for me to do it?

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

That was then, this is now


u  If you oppose vaccine mandates for COVID, would you have sided with vaccine opponents in dealing with previous diseases? Would you, for example, have opposed the vaccine mandate for smallpox in the early 20th century? If you would have supported vaccination then, why oppose it now?


Friday, March 18, 2022

The Moral Wager

 What if all you had to go on in deciding whether there is a God is what you think will make you a more moral person.  Kant thinks that our knowledge of nature is of reality as it appears to us and not as it is in itself, so for him I think it knocks out all the standard evidential arguments and leaves us with what we can postulate as a matter of practical reason. But I am asking what the argument is for people in a wager-like situation, where you are making the wager not based on what is in your personal best interest, but based on what is in your moral best interest. 

If this is your view of things, do you wager on God? Or not? 

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Air Jordans and Hakeem Olajuwon

When Air Jordans came out, the price was so high low income kids couldn't afford it, and sometimes kids were murdered for their Air Jordans. Hakeem Olajuwon, the Houston Rockets' superstar center who led Houston to two NBA titles (at the expense of my Phoenix Suns), was a Muslim who refused based on his religion to allow his name to be used on overpriced athletic shoes. Instead, he endorsed a shoe that was about 1/3 the cost of Air Jordans.

Nike Sweatshops and Catholic Ethics

 Jim Keady maintains that for a Catholic University to support Nike products puts them in conflict with Catholic social principles. Here. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

My book was translated into Polish

 Yesterday I got four copies of a Polish translation of C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea. It was translated into Korean a number of years ago, but I was really surprised to see this. 

Business Ethics: A contradiction in terms?

What is the ethical responsibility of business? According to Milton Friedman, it is to increase its profits.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Atheism and ethics

 Atheists often bristle at the suggestion that, given their rejection of religion, they are any more likely be unethical. Many of them are ethically motivated. But I have trouble believing that religion makes no moral difference.

Monday, February 28, 2022

LSD and AR-15s don't mix

 Ted Nugent, a rock and roll singer, began his career with the Amboy Dukes, who recorded a hit song called "Journey to the Center of the Mind," clearly to be accomplished through the use of psychedelic drugs. More recently, he has been an advocate of exercising your second amendment rights. But I hope he doesn't think we ought to journey to the center of the mind and exercise our second amendment rights at the same time. As they say in A Christmas Story, "You'll shoot your eye out."

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Monday, February 21, 2022

No problem

 Is insisting in human rights forcing our values on people in foreign countries? If so, I'm all for forcing my values on people in foreign countries. No problem.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Calvinism and the worship-worthiness of Yahweh

 Imagine the following person, call him Smith. Smith is convinced, based on various arguments (presuppositional or evidential) that an infinite being, called Yahweh, exists. Yahweh, Smith believes, raised Yeshua from the dead, and the Yeshua is Yahweh's son, the second Person of a Trinity.  He believes, further, that the Old and New Testaments are factually inerrant. Based on an exegetical analysis of Scripture, (Rom 9, John 6:44, et al.) that the Reformed Doctrine that Yahweh predestines some to receive saving grace, while predestining others to suffer the punishment of hell, to be an accurate account. He's a good Calvinist, except for one thing. Given the fact that, for millions of people, Yahweh could have given them saving grace but did not, and instead inflicts everlasting punishment upon them, he concludes that Yahweh is unworthy of worship. With respect to those we care about, we are inclined to give up anything of ourselves, even our own life, to prevent them from suffering disaster. And eternal punishment is surely a fate worse than death, or prison, or being tortured on earth, or being publicly shamed, etc. If goodness is definable in terms of lovingness, then a deity who exemplified perfect goodness would do everything possible to keep people from suffering eternal torment, and on this score, Smith reasons, Yahweh falls short. 

A good Calvinist could, it seems to me, give a prudential argument for why Smith should worship Yahweh. God, ex hypothesi, has either condemned Smith to hell or elected him for heaven, but his choosing to worship Yahweh no doubt renders it more probably that Smith is among the elect. But what I can't find here is a moral argument as to why Smith ought to worship Yahweh. That Yahweh is Smith's creator seems insufficient, because that would mean that someone created by Lucifer ought to worship Lucifer. So, if there is a moral argument, what is it? 

(Notice that I don't use the word God for Yahweh, because the concept of God seems to entail moral goodness, and that is what is at issue in this discussion). 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

C. S. Lewis on Total Depravity


Though it's actually about the argument from total depravity to the conclusion that our concept of good and evil are worth simply nothing applied to God. 

Saturday, February 05, 2022

Reformed schools

 When I was a fellow at Notre Dame I went out to dinner with Al Plantinga. He was telling us how he liked the Catholic school his daughter attended. So I asked him "So, you couldn't find a Reformed school for her?" Only, I deliberately failed to enunciate the "d" in Reformed, prompting a disquisition by AP on the difference between a Reformed school and a reform school.

Friday, February 04, 2022

Burning and banning books.

 Burning or banning books always seems like a self-defeating enterprise-- it calls attention to the very books you are banning or burning.

But some people still do it. 


On Wittgenstein

 My dissertation advisor was Hugh Chandler, who did his own dissertation under Wittgenstein student Norman Malcolm. (Chandler admired Wittgenstein but as no disciple) I also took a Wittgenstein course from Wittgenstein disciple Peter Winch. But for a defender on naturalism, Wittgenstein is a double-edged sword. Winch applied the Wittgensteinian idea of language games to argue (and I think this really is consistent Wittgensteinianism) that the Genesis story and the Darwinian theory of evolution are not in conflict because they occur in different language games. Imagine what Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett would say about that! Naturalists invariably claim that while religious people are playing language games, we in science are nailing down reality, and that is precisely what Wittgenstein's position, taken to its logical conclusion, prevents you from doing. In fact, it's hard to see how far Anscombe could follow Wittgenstein. If she were to explain Catholic Eucharistic doctrine to Wittgenstein he would say "Yes, in the Catholic language game, the elements really are the Body and Blood of Christ, though that is not part of the Protestant language game." Anscombe would never be satisfied with that!

Thursday, February 03, 2022

Is the Holocaust strong evidence against theism?

Jeff Lowder thinks so. 

C. S. Lewis as wartime apologist.

 The evidence suggests that he saw apologetics as a wartime duty, and his workload at Oxford was smaller when so many British men were fighting the Nazis. Lewis loved debate and believed in the rationality of his faith (and this didn't at all waver), and he continued his Presidency of the Oxford Socratic Club until he went to Cambridge. But he never envisioned himself as the go-to guy for Christian apologietics. Even John Beversluis, the arch-critic of Lewis's apologetics, recognized that the Anscombe exchange had nothing like the kind of impact that Humphrey Carpenter, George Sayer, and A. N. Wilson claimed that it did. It is weird that none of these authors so much as mention Lewis's revised chapter, which makes their accounts of the Anscombe incident rather like an account of the Kennedy assassination that omits the fact that Jack Ruby killed Oswald.

Miracles was published in 1947, but was written during wartime.

What if Anscombe had never replied to C. S. Lewis?

74 years ago yesterday on Feb 2, Elizabeth Anscombe read her paper replying to Lewis on his argument against naturalism. But Ludwig Wittgenstein, her mentor. did not approve of her attending the Oxford Socratic Club and did not think C. S. Lewis to be worth refuting. What if Anscombe had listened to Wittgenstein. How would Lewis's apologetic and literary output have been different?

My view is "not much." (Though there would have been no revised chapter). What do you think?

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Act and rule utilitarianism

Utilitarians have rules, too, not just deontologists. But those rules are chosen in accordance with what will maximize happiness for the greatest number. There is a split amongst utiltiarians between people who think we should do what maximizes utility even if it is against the rules chosen based on utility, and thoso who think we should act based on the rule chosen based on utility, even if the act we perform might not maximize utility. This is the split between act utilitarians and rule utilitarians. 

Errors and slavery

 The case for slavery in America. 


How did people defend positions we now think are obviously morally deficient? How do moral errors take place? 

Rate yourself ethically

 Are people as ethical, or less ethical than they think they are?

If people were to rate themselves on a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 is least ethical and 10 is most ethical, wouldn't most people put themselves in the top 25%? But most of us can't be in the top 25%.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Temptations and moral dilemmas

 Also, there are two types of moral decisions. One is a temptation. With a temptation it's pretty obvious what the morally right thing to do is. The hard part might be doing it. An example would be finding a wallet on the street. it's your duty to turn it in and get it back to its owner. But  you have bills to pay, so you might not do it, but you know you should. The other is a dilemma, where you have moral reasons to do two opposing actions. . An example of a dilemma would be whether to honor a patient's request for assisted suicide. On the one hand, a doctor is trained to keep a patient alive, but is also taught to abide by the wishes of the patient. Coming to an answer as to what is right requires further ethical consideration. 

A transnational federal government??

From Humanist Manifesto II:  (1973) 

TWELFTH: We deplore the division of humankind on nationalistic grounds. We have reached a turning point in human history where the best option is to transcend the limits of national sovereignty and to move toward the building of a world community in which all sectors of the human family can participate. Thus we look to the development of a system of world law and a world order based upon transnational federal government. This would appreciate cultural pluralism and diversity. It would not exclude pride in national origins and accomplishments nor the handling of regional problems on a regional basis. Human progress, however, can no longer be achieved by focusing on one section of the world, Western or Eastern, developed or underdeveloped. For the first time in human history, no part of humankind can be isolated from any other. Each person’s future is in some way linked to all. We thus reaffirm a commitment to the building of world community, at the same time recognizing that this commits us to some hard choices.

So, in addition to paying taxes to the local, state and federal government, we would then have to pay taxes to the transnational federal government? 1040T for Transnational? 

Moral facts

 When it comes to adultery, we have some people who think that God, (who presumably knows what is right or wrong) has told us not to do it in the Seventh Commandment. If there is a God, a take it that it more than just His opinion that adultery is wrong. But if there is not God, or God never said that, then we can still ask whether or not adulterous affairs are good things. One aspect of this has to do with whether marriage necessarily implies a promise to be faithful, which of course would be broken by the adulterous affair. Religious traditions that include the idea behind the Ten Commandments think that there are what philosophers call moral facts: that is, something true about what is right and wrong regardless of what anybody thinks about it. Religious nonbelievers disagree with one another as to whether there are moral facts: J. L. Mackie was a philosopher who thought that moral facts do not exist, Erik Wielenberg is an atheist philosopher who thinks that moral facts do exist.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Why be moral in business?

 I am somewhat conflicted about how much you can make the argument that good ethics in business pays. I think in most cases unethical conduct will bite your company in the rear end eventually. But if decision-makers are not with the company for the long haul, as they often are not, then they can reap the rewards of short-term benefits and then leave before the results of their policies start harming the company. 

So my main argument in response to the question "Why should I be moral ib business" is that you'll sleep better at night. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

My dad's Invictus parody

 Apologies to W. E. Henley. 

It matters not

How crooked the used car salesman

How charged with punishment his scroll

He is the master of his fate

He has a bankroll

Have we heard the last Presidential concession speech in American history?

 Hillary Clinton is famous for being the first woman to run for President as the candidate of one of the major parties, and tried to become the first woman President of the United States. Nevertheless, will she be remembered as the last candidate to do something, namely the last person ever to concede an election to her opponent? It's a chilling thought.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The difference principle

 The value of the first, say 60,000 for a person is much greater than the second 60,000.  From the standpoint of maximizing happiness, it is better for two people to have 60,000 each than it is for one person to have 100,000 and the other have 20,000, since the one 20,000 is going to be close to the poverty line, while the other one will just have a few more luxuries. 

But some inequalities benefit the people on the bottom. Doctors make more money than street sweepers, and when street sweepers need a doctor, they would have to agree that this is a good idea. But are other inequalities morally acceptable? 

According to John Rawls's Difference Principle, the answer is no. 

The difference principle provides that inequalities are unjustified unless they make the least advantaged better off. But in order to apply this principle, we must make predictions about the future economic effects of current economic policies, predictions that are notoriously difficult to make.

See here. 

Sunday, January 09, 2022

A Debate on God's Existence

 Between Richard Swinburne and Peter Millican. 

I met Swinburne at Notre Dame in 1990. I remember him telling me he thought my rebuttal to Mackie on miracles was decisive. 


Thursday, January 06, 2022

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Is God changeless?

 This article explores just this issue. Here's a topic with zero political overtones. Probably, it will get zero comments. 

Monday, January 03, 2022

Arsenic, old lace, and the value of life

 Suppose you were asked by a skeptical person why you value human life. Not happiness, or quality of life, just life itself. Why do you believe that we ought to preserve life even if in doing so we decrease the overall balance of pleasure over pain. 

I once knew a thoroughgoing skeptic about the value of life. He considered the old women who killed their boarders in Arsenic and Old Lace to by public benefactors. When asked "Well, based on your argument, why shouldn't I just kill you now?" He replied "It would be OK so long as you could do it painlessly."

I suppose someone could question this position's sincerity through an exercise of one's Second Amendment rights. But I am not sure this argument works.