Book on the Problem of Evil and Suffering

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/03/2018 - 4:50am in

Peter Vardy, The Puzzle of Evil (HarperCollins 1992)

Back at the weekend I put up a piece about some of the books I’d read about God and religion, which might be useful to anyone wishing to explore these issues for themselves. This was in response to a request from Jo, one of the great commenters on this blog, who asked me a couple of questions about them. This is another book, which I think might help people with one of the most difficult problems in theology: the problem of evil. To put it simply, this is the question how a God, such as the one Jews, Christians and Muslims worship, who is wholly good and omnipotent, can allow evil and suffering. The counterargument frequently made is that as evil exists, God is either not all-powerful, or not good.

Peter Vardy is the lecturer in Philosophy of Religion at Heythrop College, University of London, and the book is written from a Christian perspective. It has the following chapters

Part 1 – The Problem of Evil

1. The Problem Stated
2 A God’s Eye View
3 the Free Will Defence
(i) The Free Will Defence Outlined
(ii) The nature of freedom
(iii) The utopia thesis
(iv) The FWD defended
4 Natural Evil
(I) The Devil and natural evil
(ii) Its this the best of all possible worlds?
(iii) Matter as evil
5 Is it all worth it?
6 Conclusion to the Problem of Evil

Part II – The Mystery of Evil
7 Introduction
8 The Euthyphro Problem
9 Albrecht Ritschl – Absolute Value Judgements
10 God Almighty
11 Can God Act in the World?
12 Animal Suffering and Physical Evil
13 Moral Evil – Job and Ivan
14 The Devil and All His Works
15 The Challenge of Freedom
16 Conclusion.

Vardy goes through and analyses and critiques arguments and attempted solutions to the problem of evil from Irenaeus, St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to modern theologians and philosophers. He finds many of them inadequate, but in his conclusion fully asserts the Christian response to suffering. This is that meaning and purpose for human beings can only be found in the love and fellowship of God, that God does indeed act in the world and answer people’s prayers, but that such actions are rare and sparingly used, and that a world with less suffering could not have been created. This last is qualified with the statement that this is a matter of belief, and cannot be justified. He also states that there are forces of evil deep in the human psyche, and may be a real, independent force of evil outside of us. Which sounds very much like the Devil to me. However, that force cannot do more than persuade. It cannot take away human’s freedom. He also states ‘I am convinced that the power of evil is very real and that it needs to be fought both within us and in the world around us.’ On human free will, he states

Human beings are free to take responsibility for themselves as individuals, no matter what their circumstances, and to respond to God or not. I accept that the price for doing this will be high and that the road may be one that few will be willing to follow.

This last statement of what he considers should be the Christian attitude to evil concludes with

I accept that I could be wrong about all the above statements but am ready to stake my life on the “if” that I am right. I cannot do more. (pp. 203-4)

He also makes it very clear that Christians have a moral duty to fight evil. He writes

Augustine’s position, “I believe in order that I may understand”, rests on an opening judgement which cannot be proved, but once this is accepted then many things make sense which would not otherwise do so. The faith position is an altogether more positive and optimistic one than the assertion of meaninglessness. It maintains that although evil is a terrible reality 9it can be overcome and one of our main tasks as human individuals is to fight against it. Indeed the problem of evil is not at heart an intellectual one so much as an existential one – the presence of evil should call us to engage with it and to fight against it. As soon as we are overawed by evil’s power and allow it to have mastery we will cower beneath it in fear and trembling. We may have many excuses for doing this, we may hold that it is none of our business, or consider ourselves too weak or think that as we are not too badly affected it does not matter. Evil, however, spreads and unless it is combated its power will grow. We cannot stand idle and watch it increase – we have to face it now no matter how great the personal cost may be. Some may consider us foolish and certainly fighting evil wherever we find it (particularly in ourselves) can be a lonely and heartbreaking business. However the choice is simple: submit and be overcome or stand and fight and find freedom. This is a choice that needs to be lived out and so this book is, at the end of the day, a call to action. (Pp. 202-3)

Warning: in some places, this is not an easy book to read, as Vardy illustrates how pressing the problem is, and the terrible power of evil, with examples from ordinary life, such as the accidental death of children, to the sadistic acts of vile regimes. This includes the guards in the Nazi death camps throwing Jewish children alive into the quicklime that was used to destroy the bodies after death. He doesn’t dwell on these examples, but uses them to show that this is far more than an academic exercise.

On the other hand, he also uses the works of Tolstoy, and in particular The Brothers Karamazov, to explore the problem of evil, as well as the Book of Job in the Bible. Regarding the chapters on ‘natural’ and ‘moral’ evil, this is a distinction theologians and philosophers make between humans and the natural world. ‘Natural evil’ are disasters like earthquakes, plagues and so on, which bring terrible suffering, but the forces themselves don’t actually have free will. ‘Moral evil’ refers to humans, who do have free will, and are free to choose whether they pursue a particular course of action, or commit a crime or an atrocity, or not.

I’m very much aware that not all the readers of this blog are Christians by any means. I hope, however, that this might help those wishing to explore the problem of evil from the Christian tradition, and am aware that other religions have their own.

But I also hope that whatever our personal religious or philosophical views, we can all agree that, as human being, we do have freedom and a moral duty to fight evil and suffering.


Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/03/2018 - 12:37am in


Links, philosophy

Once again, here’s the Mini-Heap—10 recent items from the Daily Nous Heap of Links, our regularly updated list of material from around the web that philosophers may want to check out.

(The Heap of Links consists partly of suggestions from readers; if you find something online that you think would be of interest to the philosophical community, please send it in for consideration for the Heap.)

  1. “One can manifest all of these traits [of intellectual humility] without in fact lowering one’s confidence in one’s beliefs at all” — that Duncan Pritchard (Edinburgh) is sticking to his guns on this doesn’t mean he is intellectually arrogant
  2. “Oh, the shit you’ll do after you’re tenured” — McSweeney’s Seussifies tenure
  3. Fascinating series of articles on robots and ethics — from Evan Selinger (RIT)
  4. “Once you start measuring people’s job perfomance, they will switch to optimizing for what you’re measuring, rather than putting their best efforts into actually doing good work” — is there a lesson in this for academia (via Pekka Väyrynen)
  5. Traffic lights, but instead of illuminated circles, they have illuminated images of Karl Marx — part of Trier’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth
  6. “It just blew my mind… that’s like the coolest thing I’ve seen” — the product manager for Atomic Skiing on his first philosophy course and how studying philosophy helped his career
  7. A philosophy and politics undergrad at Pittsburgh is running for a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives — philosophy helps with “trying to understand how you need to set up the problem,” says 20 year-old Jacob Pavlecic
  8. “There’s more to come” — William H. (Bill) Miller III, who donated $75m to JHU’s Philosophy Department, in an interview in The Chronicle
  9. “What a good society does is based on a different set of considerations and principles than what a good person does” — Laurie Shrage (Florida International) on how to think about abortion
  10. Philosophy of race discussion — with Kwame Anthony Appiah, Priyamvada Gopal, and Nasar Meer

The post Mini-Heap appeared first on Daily Nous.

Philosophy & Music Festival in Wales

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/03/2018 - 12:53am in

Tickets for HowTheLightGetsIn, a large four-day philosophy and music festival held in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, are on sale, and the organizers have offered a discount to Daily Nous readers.The festival, created by the Institute of Art and Ideas (IAI), features over 500 events of various kinds, including talks, debates, courses, concerts, and other performances.

The roster of philosophers taking part includes: Kwame Anthony Appiah (NYU), Noam Chomsky (MIT), Julian Baggini, Adam Swift (Warwick), Renata Salecl (Ljubljana), Andy Clark (Edinburgh), Michael Ruse (Florida State), Paul Boghossian (NYU), Huw Price (Cambridge), Barry Smith (UCL), Amie L. Thomasson (Dartmouth), Bence Nanay (Cambridge/Antwerp), Robert Rowland Smith, Maria Baghramian (University College Dublin), Naomi Goulder (New College of the Humanities), Christopher Hamilton (KCL), and James Ladyman (Bristol). There are also a number of other speakers affiliated with other disciplines.

There’s a list of the musical acts here, as well as the full program.

If you’re purchasing tickets, on the same page you enter in your payment information, you’ll see a line that says “+ Click here for student and other discounts.” Click that and enter DNous20 for a 20% discount. (I’m not sure if the discount applies to the festival’s “boutique yurt” rentals.)

Thanks to David Maclean at IAI for arranging for this discount.

The post Philosophy & Music Festival in Wales appeared first on Daily Nous.

Why Is Philosophy So Hard?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/03/2018 - 11:35pm in

Daniel Kodsi, an undergraduate at Oxford and founding editor of the Oxford Review of Books, writes about his interview of Amia Srinivasan,  philosophy lecturer in the UCL Philosophy Department and fellow of All Souls College, Oxford: “I start the interview with a question I feel strangely silly for having, but which I cannot help but blurt out: why is philosophy so hard?”

He then recounts Srinivasan’s answer:

‘This is not a standard view by any means’, she tells me, ‘but I think philosophy presupposes the ability to do something that’s actually not possible for us to do’. This, she says, is to stand outside the relationship between ourselves and the world, to be able to see both ourselves and the world. We want to be able to understand the world from something like an objective point of view, to think about it with maximal detachment. ‘But unfortunately’, she continues, ‘we are a mind in the world, and not just in the world generally, but a very specific world, a particular world for each person. And so we have this regulative aspiration, but that’s at best a regulative ideal, not one that we can actually achieve, and I think that’s part of the pain: it’s the pain of wanting to transcend and being thrown back on our localness and finitude.’

This kind of worry arises most immediately when doing metaphysics; perhaps it explains the deep suspicion that is often directed towards philosophy which seeks to spell out the fundamental structure of the world. But it also emerges in epistemology. To take Bernard Williams’ famous phrase, if ‘knowledge is of what is there anyway’, how can we have any if we can’t get past our representations? Srinivasan is interested in this, in ‘how we should think about the fact that we represent the world, and that our particular representations of the world are contingent on the particularities of culture and history and language, on the particular concepts we use. The philosophical ambition is to tell us the way the world is independent of our representations, but that calls for us to represent the world, so we have this ambition to represent the world as it is without representation.’ Not that one can say that it is impossible for us to have an absolute conception of the world. In trying, Srinivasan says, one runs ‘into a kind of paradox, because one is representing the world as the sort of world which cannot be represented’. The perspectivalist position—that ‘the world in itself is such that there is no world beyond our representations of it’—exhibits a kind of ineffability. At this point, most analytic philosophers are quick to declare that it is therefore false. But some, like Oxford philosopher Adrian Moore, have said that it falls (somehow) into, as Srinivasan puts it, ‘this category of nonsense that points to the truth’. In some moods, Srinivasan says, she is ‘attracted to that kind of thought. It’s a thought that’s really not popular in contemporary analytical circles.’

The whole interview is here.

M.C. Escher, “Drawing Hands”

The post Why Is Philosophy So Hard? appeared first on Daily Nous.

Philosopher Clothing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/03/2018 - 2:44am in



This is the “Gottlob Frege: Begriffsschrift” A-line dress, designed by philosopher-artist Maureen Eckert and brought to my attention by Sara Bernstein. The pattern is also available on leggings. She also has clothing available with Frege’s square of opposition on it, such as this shirt.

These items are available on Redbubble, where, I recently discovered, you can find a surprising number of philosopher-themed clothing, such as:

Many of philosopher-artist Renee Bolinger‘s portraits of philosophers are available printed on clothing, too.

Also, some of the artwork by the philosophers who create the comic strips here at DN is also available in clothing form. Check out stuff from Pete Mandik, Rachel Katler, Tanya Kostochka, and Ryan Lake.

See some philosopher-inspired clothing online? Let us know, and include a link.

And maybe someone could get working on making a Hobbes shirt, like this:

The post Philosopher Clothing appeared first on Daily Nous.

Students Allege Sexual Harassment by Concordia Philosophy Professor

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/03/2018 - 3:14am in

Several students at Concordia University have accused a professor in its Department of Philosophy of sexual harassment.  One of the students has accused the university of “systemic failings of its sexual violence and sexual harassment policies,” filed a civil rights complaint against the school that includes a  request that the accused professor “face sanctions for his alleged behaviour,” and is suing for CA$60,000 (approximately $45,000) in damages.

The CBC reports:

“Alya” [not the student’s real name] was a Concordia undergraduate student in 2009 when she began receiving emails from her professor, asking her to party with him at bars. In the emails, obtained by CBC News, she told him she doesn’t drink. In one email, she reminded him of that fact.

“I could always slip some vodka into your pop when you weren’t looking!!!!!!!” he responded.

She deflected his advances in her responses, but he persisted. He began one email by writing “Hi [Alya], hug and kiss.”

In May 2009, another student filed a formal complaint about the same professor and Alya agreed to testify on that student’s behalf, reporting her experience dealing with him.

The stress of testifying, in addition to an end-of-semester illness, made it difficult to finish three of her final assignments. “I just didn’t want to go to class anymore,” she said. “I didn’t want to be around the department.” 

She wrote an email to the chair of her department, philosophy, asking for an extension to finish her assignments. The chair responded, calling her reason—the anxiety and stress associated with reporting the professor’s behaviour—“insufficient.” He also asked she not tell other members of the department about the ongoing harassment case. 

“It really made me realize what I was dealing with, in terms of who the chair and the department was out to serve, and it wasn’t me,” she said…

She went on to fail two of the courses, causing a permanent blemish on her academic record. She left Concordia and transferred to York University at significant personal expense.

Five years after the alleged harassment, Alya approached Concordia again, hoping to file a complaint about how she was treated. She said when she approached the university, she was shuffled from department to department, “like a ball in a pinball machine.”

First, she contacted the new chair of the philosophy department, who forwarded her emails to the school’s Office of Rights and Responsibilities.  She was told it was too late for her to file a complaint and was told to call the ombudsman or the dean. She contacted the ombudsman and received no response. Disheartened, she gave up.

But then, in 2017, she met another student who was enrolled at Concordia’s philosophy department. That woman told Alya she had recently been harassed by the same professor.

Alya said she was appalled the professor was still working at the university, and decided to file a human rights complaint, naming the school.

“It really indicated to me there is still a culture of inappropriate behaviour being tolerated in the department from the same person, almost 10 years later, and it disgusted me,” she said.

She said she met with officials from the school’s administration, who agreed to remove the failed classes from her academic record and instead mark them as incomplete. But by then, Alya had already been rejected for graduate programs, a fact she blames on those failed classes.

The CBC’s article is here.

The post Students Allege Sexual Harassment by Concordia Philosophy Professor appeared first on Daily Nous.


Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/03/2018 - 11:37pm in


Links, philosophy

Here’s the latest Mini-Heap—10 recent items from the Daily Nous Heap of Links, our regularly updated list of material from around the web that philosophers may want to check out.

(The Heap of Links consists partly of suggestions from readers; if you find something online that you think would be of interest to the philosophical community, please send it in for consideration for the Heap.)

  1. “The number of study places available in each discipline should be linked to labour market need” — a proposal in Denmark with potentially dire consequences for the humanities
  2. Frankfurt’s conception of “bullshit” has never been more relevant –alas
  3. William Jackson Harper (Chidi from “The Good Place”) and Kwame Anthony Appiah team up — to answer ethics questions on NPR’s “Ask Me Another”
  4. “There is nothing unethical about reneging on a temporary, contingent position to accept a tenure-track offer” — that and other judgments about the ethics of backing out of academic job offers
  5. Landmark moments for women in philosophy — including an interactive timeline
  6. Creating brains in vats — mini-ones, for now.
  7. More than ever, there is too much to know — the rational move is to know which knowers have good reputations, and rely on them
  8. Bid on a replica of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond (or click on the banner at the top of the page for other items, like a pencil from the Thoreau Pencil Factory)
  9. Public philosophy: kinds, challenges, and ideals — Caleb Harrison and Macy Salzberger (UNC) talk with Skye Cleary
  10. What exactly is wrong with the alt-right’s anti-Semitism? — Jonathan Anomaly (Arizona) and Nathan Cofnas (Oxford) take a close look

The post Mini-Heap appeared first on Daily Nous.

Online Philosophy Resources Weekly Update

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/03/2018 - 10:58pm in



Here’s the weekly report of what’s new at some useful online philosophy resources.

We check the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP), Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (NDPR), 1000-Word Philosophy, and occasionally some other sites for updates and report them right here.

If you think there are other regularly updated sites we should add to this feature, feel free to suggest them in the comments.



  1. Simone Weil, by A. Rebecca Rozelle-Stone (Notre Dame) and Benjamin P. Davis (Emory).


  1. Explanation in Mathematics, by Paolo Mancosu (Berkeley).
  2. Pragmatic Arguments and Belief in God, by Jeff Jordan (Deleware).
  3. Śāntarakṣita, by James Blumenthal (Oregon State) and James Apple (Calgary).
  4. Location and Mereology, by Cody Gilmore (UC Davis).
  5. Classical Logic, by Stewart Shapiro (Ohio State) and Teresa Kouri Kissel (Old Dominion).



  1. Niccoló Machiavelli, by Kevin Honeycutt (Mercer).

1000-Word Philosophy Ø

  1. Dabney Townsend reviews Early Modern Aesthetics (Rowman and Littlefield), by J. Colin McQuillan.
  2. James R. Hamilton (Kansas State) reviews The Philosophy of Autobiography (Chicago), by Christopher Cowley (ed.).
  3. Rick Dolphijn (Utrecht) reviews Speculative Realism: Problems and Prospects (Bloomsbury), by Peter Gratton.
  4. Mark Olssen (Surrey) reviews Language, Madness, and Desire: On Literature (Minnesota), by Michel Foucault.
  5. Jamie L. Nelson (Michigan State) reviews Permissible Progeny? The Morality of Procreation and Parenting (Oxford), by Sarah Hannah, Samantha Brennan, and Richard Vernon (eds.).
  6. Robert Nola (Auckland) reviews Articulating the World: Conceptual Understanding and the Scientific Image (Chicago), by Joseph Rouse.
  7. Andrew Winer (UC Riverside) reviews Dialectic of the Ladder: Wittgenstein, the ‘Tractatus’ and Modernism (Bloomsbury), by Benjamin Ware.
  8. Helen A. Fielding (Western Ontario) reviews Thinking about Love: Essays in Contemporary Continental Philosophy (Pennsylvania State), by Diana Enns and Antonio Calcagno (eds.).
  9. Jonathan Crowe (Queensland) reviews Reasons and Intentions in Law and Practical Agency (Cambridge), by George Pavlakos and Veronica Rodriguez-Blanco (eds.).
  10. Nathan Powers (SUNY-Albany) reviews Knowledge and Virtue in Early Stoicism (Springer), by Hȧvard Løkke.
  11. Tim Crane (Cambridge) reviews Frank Cioffi: The Philosopher in Shirt-Sleeves (Bloomsbury), by David Ellis.
  12. Francisco J. Gonzalez (Ottawa) reviews The Platonic Alcibiades I: The Dialogue and its Ancient Reception (Cambridge), by François Renaud and Harold Tarrant.
  13. Mathias Risse, (Harvard), and Marco Meyer (Cambridge/Groningen) reviewCatching Capital: The Ethics of Tax Competition (Oxford), by Peter Dietsch.
  14. Evan Thompson (British Columbia) reviews Striking Beauty: A Philosophical Look at the Asian Martial Arts (Columbia), by Barry Allen.
  15. Nikk Effingham (Birmingham) reviews The Problem of Universals in Contemporary Philosophy (Cambridge), by Gabrielle Galluzzo and Michael J. Loux (eds.).
  16. Jeffrey L. Powell (Marshall) reviews Hegel (Indiana), by Martin Heidegger.
  17. Tyler Doggett (Vermont) reviews The Moral Complexities of Eating Meat (Oxford), by Ben Bramble and Bob Fischer (eds.).
  18. Arto Laitinen (Tampere) reviews Hegel’s Theory of Responsibility (Cambridge), by Mark Alznauer.
  19. Matthew Talbert (West Virginia) reviews Responsibility from the Margins (Oxford), by David Shoemaker.

Compiled by Michael Glawson (University of South Carolina)


The post Online Philosophy Resources Weekly Update appeared first on Daily Nous.

Books on God and Religion

On Thursday, Jo, one of the great commenters to this blog, asked my a couple of questions on the nature of the Almighty, which I tried to answer as best I could. I offered to put up here a few books, which might help people trying to explore for themselves the theological and philosophical ideas and debates about the nature of God, faith, religion and so on. I set up this blog about a decade and a half ago to defend Christianity against attacks by the New Atheists. I don’t really want to get sidetracked back there, because some of these issues will just go on forever if you let them. And I’m far more concerned to bring people of different religions and none together to combat the attacks by the Tories and the Blairites on the remains of the welfare state, the privatisation of the NHS, and the impoverishment and murder of the British public, particularly the disabled, in order to further enrich the corporate elite. Especially as the Tories seem to want to provoke war with Russia.

But here are some books, which are written for ordinary people, which cover these issues, which have helped me and which I hope others reading about these topics for themselves will also find helpful.

The Thinker’s Guide to God, Peter Vardy and Julie Arliss (Alresford: John Hunt Publishing 2003)

This book is written by two academics from a Christian viewpoint, and discusses the Western religious tradition from Plato and Aristotle. It has the following chapters

1. Thinking About God – Plato and Aristotle
2.The God of the Philosophers
3. The God of Sacred Scripture
4. Religious Language
5. The Challenge of Anti-Realism
6. Arguments for the Existence of God
7. The Attributes of God
8. Life After Death
9. Miracles and Prayer
10. Jesus, the Trinity, and Christian Theology
11. Faith and Reason
12 Attacks on God, Darwin, Marx and Freud
13 God and Science
14 Quantum Science, Multi-Dimensions and God

God: A Guide for the Perplexed, Keith Ward, (Oxford: OneWorld 2003)

1. A Feeling for the Gods
God, literalism and poetry, A world full of Gods, Descartes and the cosmic machine, Wordsworth and Blake, the gods and poetic imagination, Conflict among the gods, Friedrich Schleiermacher: a Romantic account of the gods; Rudolf Otto: the sense of the numinous; Martin Buber: life as meeting, Epilogue: the testimony of a secularist.

2. Beyond the gods
Prophets and seers; The prophets of Israel and monotheism; Basil, Gregory Palamas and Maimonides: the apophatic way; Thomas Aquinas: the simplicity of God; The five ways of demonstrating God; Pseudo-Dyonysius the Areopagite; The doctrine of analogy; Three mystics.

3. The Love that moves the sun
The 613 commandments; Pigs and other animals; the two great commandments; The Ten Commandments; Jesus and the Law; Calvin and the Commandments, Faith and works; Theistic morality as fulfilling God’s purpose; Kant, the categorical imperative and faith, God as creative freedom, affective knowledge and illimitable love.

4. The God of the Philosophers

God and Job; Plato and the gods; the vision of the Good; Appearance and Reality; Augustine and creation ex nihilo, Aristotle and the Perfect Being; Augustine and Platonism; Anselm and Necessary Being; Evil, necessity and the Free Will defence; Creation as a timeless act; Faith and understanding.

5. The Poet of the World

The timeless and immutable God; The rejection of Platonism; Hegel and the philosophy of Absolute Spirit; Marx and the dialectic of history; Pantheism and panentheism; Time and creativity, The redemption of suffering; History and the purposive cosmos; Process philosophy; The collapse of the metaphysical vision.

6. The darkness between stars

Pascal: faith and scepticism; A.J. Ayer; the death of metaphysics; Scientific hypotheses and existential questions; Kierkegaard: truth as subjectivity; Sartre; freedom from a repressive God; Heidegger and Kierkegaard: the absolute
paradox; Tillich: religious symbols; Wittgenstein: pictures of human life; Religious language and forms of life; Religion and ‘seeing-as’; Spirituality without belief; Non-realism and God; The silence of the heart.

7. The personal ground of being

God as omnipotent person; The problem of evil; Fichte, Schelling, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche: beyond good and evil; Omniscience and creative freedom; God: person or personal; Persons as relational; The idea of the Trinity; The revelatory roots of religion; Conclusion: Seven ways of thinking about God.


Teach Yourself Philosophy of Religion, by Mel Thompson, (London: HodderHeadline 1997)

What is the philosophy of Religion?
Why study religion in this way?
What is involved?
The structure of this book
What this book aims to do.

1. Religious Experiences
Starting with experience
What happens when you experience something?
What is religious experience?
Induced religious experiences
Charismatic experiences
Some features of religious experience
What can we know?
Authority and response

2.Religious Language
A private language?
Knowledge and description
Faith, reason and beliefs
The rational and the non-rational
Interpreting language
Cognitive and non-cognitive
Language games
The limitations of language

3. God: the concepts
God as creator
Transcendence and immanence
Theism, pantheism and panentheism
Atheism, agnosticism and secularism
Nietzsche: God is dead
Secular interpretations of God
A postmodernist interpretation
The Christian concept of God: the Trinity
Beliefs, language and religion
Religious alternatives to theism
Basic beliefs

4. God: the arguments
The ontological argument
The cosmological argument
the teleological argument
the moral argument
the argument from religious experience

5. The Self
Bodies, minds and souls
Knowing our minds
Joining souls to bodies?
Identity and freedom
Life beyond death
Some conclusions

6. Causes, providence and miracles

7. Suffering and evil
The challenge and the response
the problem
God as moral agent
Suffering and the major religions
Coming to terms with suffering
The devil and hell
Religion and terrorism

8. Religion and Science
The problem science poses for religion
the key issues
the changing world view
the methods of science and religion
the origin of the universe
evolution and humankind
Some conclusions

9. Religion and ethics
Natural law
absolute ethics
Morality and facts
How are religion and morality treated?
Values and choices

Postcript, Glossary, Taking it Further

God and Evolution: A Reader, ed. by Mary Kathleen Cunningham (London: Routledge 2007)

Part One

1. Charles Hodge ‘The Protestant Rule of Faith’
2. Sallie McFague ‘Metaphor’
3. Mary Midgley ‘How Myths work’
4. Ian G. Barbour ‘The Structures of Science and Religion’.

Part Two
Evolutionary Theory

5. Charles Darwin, ‘On the origin of species
6. Francisco J. Ayala ‘The Evolution of life as overview
7. Michael Ruse ‘Is there are limit to our knowledge of evolution?

Part Three

6. Genesis 1-2
7. Ronald J. Numbers ‘The Creationists’.

Part Four
Intelligent Design

10. William Paley ‘Natural Theology’
11. Michael J. Behe ‘Irreducible complexity: Obstacle to Darwinian Evolution’
12. Kenneth R. Miller, ‘Answering the biochemical argument from Design

Part Five

13. Richard Dawkins, ‘The Blind Watchmaker’
14. Richard Dawkins, ‘God’s utility function’
15. Daniel C. Dennett, ‘God’s dangerous idea’
16. Mary Midgley, ‘The quest for a universal acid’
17. Michael Ruse, ‘Methodological naturalism under attack’.

Part Six
Evolutionary Theism

18. Howard J. Van Till, ‘The creation: intelligently designed or optimally equipped?’
19. Arthur Peacock, ‘Biological evolution-a positive theological appraisal’
20. Jurgen Moltmann, ‘God’s kenosis in the creation and consummation of the world’.
21 Elizabeth A. Johnson, ‘Does God play dice? Divine providence and chance’.

Part Seven:
Reformulations of Tradition

22. John F. Haught, ‘Evolution, tragedy, and cosmic paradox’
23. Sallie McFague, ‘God and the world’
24. Ruth Page, ‘Panentheism and pansyntheism: God is relation’
25. Gordon D. Kaufman, ‘On thinking of God as serendipitous creativity’.

Resisting the “Serve Limitlessly” Narrative

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/03/2018 - 11:26pm in

Many institutions control your choices in various ways, and bend your time to their aims, by suggesting that you must serve limitlessly or else you have not adequately demonstrated your devotion to the mission. It is satisfying and empowering to ignore that narrative…

Those are the words of J.D.Trout, the John and Mae Calamos Professor of Philosophy at Illinois Institute of Technology, in an interview with Clifford Sosis (Coastal Carolina) at What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher?

Professor Trout recounts a bit of his youth, discussing his abusive father, the death of his mother when he was 11, the selfish and mean relatives who raised him after that, and the fact that while many of his relatives had been to jail, none had been to college. Perhaps it is those experiences which contribute to his view that, if we can, we should use the flexibility of academia not as an excuse to let it take over our lives, but to pay oneself—both with extra money and extra time with loved ones.

Here are the set of questions and answers in the interview relating to this matter:

Do philosophy grads usually know what they’re getting themselves into?

I regularly find myself in conversation with graduate students, postdocs, and young professors on this topic. So often they share with me their anxieties about embarking on a profession in which they have so little control over their salary, their course load, and their service requirements. In the corporate environment of an undergraduate teaching college or university in which the employment of adjuncts and full-time instructors announces the expendability of tenure-track faculty, so many young people in philosophy, understandably, feel frustrated and powerless. They know it will be years before they will be making a decent salary, and that raises will be low. They know that raising salary issues with their employer will be deemed crass and mark them as perhaps uncooperative, or not adequately intrinsically motivated. While that stance by an administration is unfair, it is also entirely predictable. So I always encourage young people to stay in close touch with the things, both in and out of philosophy, that bring them not only joy but money. Try to do things that make you feel powerful and try not to position yourself in a way that could make you a victim.

Of course, bringing in extra money demands time—teaching summer or JTerm courses, online courses, doing your own repairs and improvements on your house, writing a textbook or a trade press book with a royalty advance or at least the expectation of future royalties, etc.—and this is only possible if the research expectations of your job are light, or if you write easily and quickly. So here is my advice: If your hope is to be tenure track in a decent department, the writing requirements will be nontrivial. There is little chance that truth can be finessed. So, if you don’t actually, positively, enjoy writing and/or you procrastinate, spare yourself that agony and choose another field whose necessary task is one you enjoy and perform easily (or pursue an academic position that doesn’t demand much research).

Brutal, dude. Brutal.

Of course, after a PhD, you shouldn’t HAVE to live on the tight budget that so many young faculty do, and after spending years in graduate school studying, writing, and teaching, you have amply demonstrated your devotion to having and sharing a life of the mind. No institution should doubt your commitment to its pursuits simply because you are vigilant about compensation, to pay off loans, start a family, buy a home, have a functional car, and so on. Of course. My point is that, institutional facts are typically impersonal, and while kind deans may commiserate with young faculty, given their charge, it is unrealistic to expect adventitious remuneration in the disciplines. “Hey Kiddo. Nice paper in Synthese. Here’s an extra $1000.” I have had many colleagues who say they don’t expect this kind of appreciation, but then act angry or crestfallen when they receive their 1.5% raise. After all, completing that Synthese paper may have competed with their kids’ birthday parties and soccer games, nights out and vacations. Such is the academic life, in which there is no barrier to using personal time for professional ends. You would have written that paper anyway, but perhaps not with the same urgency.

So, do you have any advice man? You’re bumming me out!

The best remedy for these anxieties, in my view, is to be effective. Think of ways that you can pay yourself.  I am lucky. My family was in the trades, and I learned to save money by doing many of my own car and home repairs. Over the last 25 years, I would estimate I have saved at least $50,000 repairing plumbing, electrical, and generally performing tasks that are typically hired out. And I have increased the value of the two houses we lived in during that time by at least that much by finishing a basement (in which my wife tiled the shower), turning an uninsulated mudroom into a proper nursery, etc. You get the idea. My wife’s job schedule is less flexible than mine, and her job’s daily demands are greater. But let me be clear about this. Many people can’t take this route to effectiveness, either because they don’t have the background or because, for many reasons, they don’t have enough time or the physical capacity for this work. I am not blaming people who don’t or can’t; I am offering encouragement to those who can. Many institutions control your choices in various ways, and bend your time to their aims, by suggesting that you must serve limitlessly or else you have not adequately demonstrated your devotion to the mission. It is satisfying and empowering to ignore that narrative, and spend part of your life adding to your income in the many palpable ways that are not prohibited by a contract. And if you love doing the labor, all the better. I have been healthy, and I like writing just fine. So the most time-consuming aspect of my job was eased.

Great! You seem well adjusted.

While I have always felt lucky to have an academic job, I have always been at places that might be thought of as teaching institutions. Until recently, my job history is not a story of academic privilege. Even so, my schedule is far more flexible than those of most people in the country. I cannot emphasize enough to young people how wonderful it is to raise a family, or just frolic without children, when you have so flexible a schedule. My kids are in their teens now, and my job has never competed for time with my family. I have coached my daughter’s softball team, coached my son’s baseball team, and when they were younger, read to them nightly and played with them daily, And, I am always available, or can quickly work something out, if the kids get sick. There is nothing to not like about this story. I had mentioned that heading for graduate school was an easy one to make; for reasons like this, it was also an easy one to live with. But then again, I am lucky.

The whole interview is here. Discussion welcome.

Shirin Abedinirad, “Sky Stairs 2”

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