Philosophy: December 2005 Archives

This is the the eighteenth post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear. I've posted an earlier version of this a while ago, but the comments degenerated into a discussion of things completely unrelated to the post. That time, it was a version of my notes on this that hadn't been altered since 2001. I've decided to expand it a bit based on further study of the subject, even though I haven't taught all these issues in the course that this series is based on. I should also say that my presentation depends heavily on William Rowe's work, most importantly the short article he wrote for introductory courses that appears in Reason and Responsibility, ed. Feinberg and Shafer-Landau, with one reference to one other text I have used in that course, Jan Cover and Rudy Garns's Theories of Knowledge and Reality (abbreviated TKR).

The cosmological argument for the existence of God is one of a number of classic arguments sometimes used in conjunction with each other to establish the existence of a being with some of the characteristics generally taken to be true of God. I'm going to look at three such arguments, each contributing something different to the overall picture The cosmological argument in particular occupies a very small role in any overall picture of how some have offered argumentation in support of theism.

In my last post on Intelligent Design, I argued that ID arguments are consistent with the standard evolutionary picture that most scientists accept, even if a number of its supporters disagree with that picture in terms of common descent. I wondered at the end why opponents of ID consistently misrepresent the ID argument, saying that I would leave that for a further post. I want to take that issue up now. There are two general possibilities. They understand what ID says and deliberately misrepresent it, or they simply don't understand that it's not saying what they present it as saying.

The principle of charity requires me to presume the second option. But why would smart scientists fail to see what seems to me to be so obvious? I have to think the main reason is that scientists aren't well-schooled in the metaphysical distinctions they assume regularly for their scientific work. I wonder how much of this is just ignorance of the metaphysical assumptions of science and the possible metaphysical positions consistent with our best science. I've certainly run across people who are profoundly ignorant on such matters, including some scientists whose work is widely respected. Some even assert that ID can't be science because it's philosophy, which is far closer to the truth than the ridiculous assertion that it's religion. But it's still at best misleading to make such a claim, because so much of science simply is philosophy, particularly metaphysics and epistemology. I think that's exactly the point that scientists don't seem to see.

I don't agree with all of Thomas Kuhn's conclusions, but one thing he demonstrated fairly clearly is that our metaphysical assumptions are part of our scientific theories, and the same is true of evolutionary theory. We arrived at much of our best science via philosophy, and much of our best science simply assumes metaphysical views that scientists tend to share. Some research that takes place in physics departments is almost pure philosophy, even though it usually takes its starting point from some empirical data, and many of these claims simply cannot be empirically verified or falsified. Consider:

Paul Baxter and I have been discussing pacifism and just war theory a bit in the comments on this post, and I've discovered that I've never posted my reflections on just war theory and Iraq. I should have a later version of all this somewhere, but maybe it got lost in a hard drive failure or something, and I can't find it online anywhere. So what I've got is something I wrote on April 4, 2003, just after the allied forces began invading Iraq. I'm not changing anything here, so this reflects my thoughts at the time. I've learned a bit more about just war theory since then, and there have been plenty of revelations in the followup to the invasion, but this concerns simply what just war theory would support given what we knew at the time. I'm not sure I'd still endorse eveyrthing I say in this, but I think it represents my thinking in most of its details even after all we've learned. [Update: I did find one later treatment of this lifted from my lecture notes with bad formatting. I'm not sure why the Ektopos internal search engine couldn't find that post. I had to use Google.]

From this point on, everything is from my previous piece.

The war is on now, so objections won't stop it, but I've had some thoughts about the objections given in light of a just war theory, and they're worth detailing and examining. One issue is how Christian just war theory is, and the other is how this war stands up in light of traditional just war theory. Some claim that just war theory is a pagan notion imported into Christianity with the Romanizing of Christianity. Some just say that just war theory wouldn't allow this war. These two issues intersect in a couple ways, and I wanted to set forth some things to think about in relation to them.



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