Teaching: January 2006 Archives


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I have a few potential posts I want to write, but things have been a bit busy around here.

1. I spent a long time troubleshooting a memory problem and then waiting a while for Dell technical support, only to find that once they've sent me my memory I still only have 128 MB instead of the 256 MB I'm supposed to have. It turns out one of the motherboard ports was bad in addition to one of the memory chips not working. I thought I tried every combination before getting off the phone with the guy, and I though both ports were working. I must have gotten things backwards in repeatedly turning the computer over to open up the bottom and then to turn it back on when done. Well, the new motherboard should solve a few minor problems that were beginning to annoy me as well, and it's nice to be operating at normal speed again. The nice thing about having a Dell complete care warranty is that they fix anything with no questions asked. I just hope they let me renew it when it expires in May. They're phasing this model out, and we're not ready to buy another computer. Sam's computer is already out of warranty, and they wouldn't let me pay ridiculous amounts of money to renew it for another year. Add to all this that my computer has been really slow lately due to the memory problem, and I've had to wait a little bit just to switch from one window to another. What's really disturbing is that Sam's computer is doing the same thing, and as far as I know she has no problem with her RAM.

2. We've finally begun our long-awaited attempt to make our windows less of a heat sink. It's good that someone who knows what he's doing is doing it, but we had to wait a while to get him. I believe we first talked to him before Thanksgiving. (There's also a currently underway renovation to this blog's design by Wink, but all I have to do is look at what he comes up with and tell him what I think. With a real life person working on our house, I have to talk to him about what he's doing and run and drive him to the hardware store when he needs stuff, since he gets dropped off by his wife.)

3. I'm spending far more time than usual wrangling three crazy kids due to having nowhere immediate to go and no immediate deadline to meet. I think I need to go to campus if I want to work, but that feels weird during a break.

This is the the nineteenth 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. In the last post, I presented the cosmological argument for the existence of God. In this post, I'll address what I consider the two best objections to the argument before offering some concluding thoughts.

First, we might think that the universe itself is self-existent. Then the conclusion of the argument is true, but it doesn't give us anything like the traditional theistic God. Suppose that is right. This commits us to a certain view about the universe, namely that it is the sort of thing that couldn't fail to exist. It means it is false to say that there might not have been a universe. This is certainly not a conclusive argument, but many philosophers want to avoid this conclusion.

Suppose you are comfortable with that conclusion. Do we really have an explanation for why there are any dependent things at all? Being self-existent simply because your parts are all explained still doesn't give an explanation of why there are any such parts. The traditional conception of God explains it more fully. It's God's nature to exist. God is the sort of thing that has to exist, but God is also viewed as a creator. Would we see the universe as a creator in the same way? It's hard to see how, which might leave us thinking that the universe as a whole doesn't serve as the kind of explanation that God does. In short, theism as a view explains why God would be self-existent, but I know of no explanation of why the universe would be self-existent. I don't think of this response as a disproof of the objection, but I do think of it as a good reason to prefer the theistic account.

The second objection I have in mind is William Rowe's (see the reference in the previous post in the series). His strategy is to deny PSR altogether. He says there could be a third kind of answer to explanation questions. Something's nature could explain something about it. Something else could explain something about it. But if you deny PSR, you can also simply have facts without any explanation. Philosophers call these brute facts. If PSR is true, there are no brute facts. Every fact is explained. But Rowe wonders why there couldn't simply be one brute fact -- the existence of dependent beings. Then there's no reason why any dependent things exist. Some will think the question is meaningless (like the question of where the universe is or when the timeline is). I get the impression that Rowe doesn't think it's meaningless, but he just thinks there's no answer to it. Either way, this response takes PSR to be right about individual things but not about the kind of explanation this argument calls for.



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