Faith and Reason: Themes from Swinburne

Paper Titles and Abstracts

Marilyn McCord Adams, "What About Hylomorphism? Some Medieval And Recent Ruminations On Swinburne’s Dualism"

In this paper I will examine Swinburne's views on the nature of the soul and the prospects for its survival and resurrection. I will set these in the context of some medieval Aristotelians and compare and contrast their relative advantages.

Paul Draper, "Simplicity and Natural Theology"

I examine and critically discuss the role of simplicity in Swinburne’s probabilistic natural theology. After describing that role and the details of his theory of simplicity, I challenge Swinburne’s view that the criterion of simplicity is a fundamental criterion for evaluating causal explanations, proposing instead that what is right about that criterion can be derived from a more fundamental criterion of "coherence". I close by arguing that, if my proposal is correct, then Swinburne’s natural theology is significantly weakened.

Hud Hudson, "Swinburne’s Aesthetic Appeal"

In his book, The Existence of God, Richard Swinburne investigates an increasingly popular argument for theism that is grounded in the observation that the universe appears to be especially fine-tuned for human bodies. Swinburne's discussion is intriguing and unusual, largely due to the role he assigns to specific aesthetic considerations (in addition to more common considerations of the value of a community of free beings and of interpersonal relationships). In this paper, I invoke a version of what has come to be called Skeptical Theism—a thesis that is frequently employed to refute a number of popular atheistic arguments. I first show how one unfortunate cost of exploiting that thesis in response to those atheistic arguments involves relinquishing the most popular defense of a crucial premise in the Fine-Tuning Argument. I then introduce and defend a second skeptical hypothesis (which stands to aesthetics as Skeptical Theism stands to claims about value more generally), and then show how Swinburne's distinctive contribution to the Fine-Tuning Argument with respect to beauty is jeopardized by the same sorts of reflections that trouble other versions of this strategy for supporting theism.

Jon Kvanvig, "The Idea of Faith as Trust: Lessons in NonCognitivist Approaches to Faith"

In usual portrayals, faith is a type of belief, with its relationship to reason a central issue about it. There are three varieties of opposition to such doxastic conceptions of faith. The most conservative opposition to doxastic conceptions comes from those who think faith is a type of cognitive state, but that belief isn't the right cognitive state to focus on. The most radical opposition comes from those who argue that every cognitive conception of faith is globally mistaken. Instead of being a subtype of belief or other cognitive state, such views argue that faith is a non-cognitive state, perhaps an instance of hope, or trust, or preference. A middle position of opposition allows that there is a variety of types of faith, but insists that some, perhaps the most important, are not best thought of in such doxastic or cognitive terms. This talk will focus on comparing two positions that fall within the latter two categories, one I have developed in other places and the preference-based account defended recently by Lara Buchak.

Alvin Plantinga, "Law, Cause, and Occasionalism"

I explore some issues having to do with freedom, determinism and the nature of natural law. Among other things, I argue that on certain popular understandings of determinism and natural law, determinism and freedom are compatible and I semi-endorse occasionalism.

John Schellenberg, "Working with Swinburne: Belief, Value, and the Religious Life"

This paper is a tribute to Richard Swinburne’s pioneering work in Faith and Reason. It seeks to learn from his insights that most fundamental in the religious life – and thus in religious faith – are the purposes to which one becomes or remains committed, and that belief is subservient to these. As will be shown, when its conative and evaluative features are sufficiently developed, religious faith is able to flourish not only without religious beliefs but also without the non-doxastic cognitive states most commonly discussed in this connection, and moreover without the epistemic beliefs Swinburne himself regards as necessary for it. A central conclusion is that when analyzing and evaluating religious faith, philosophers will gain at least as much enlightenment from the ethics of religion as from the epistemology or metaphysics thereof.

Eleonore Stump, “Love and Forgiveness: Swinburne on the Atonement”

One kind of interpretation of the doctrine of the atonement, commonly associated with Anselm, supposes that the life, suffering, and death of Christ are somehow requisite to satisfy God’s justice or goodness or some other divine attribute. For God to forgive human beings their wrongdoing, Christ’s life and death on the cross are needed. In this lecture, I will present one account of love in general and God’s love in particular, and then I will examine the implications of this account for views of God’s justice and forgiveness. On that basis, I will argue that the Anselmian kind of interpretation of the doctrine of the atonement is incompatible with at least one good account of God’s love.

Peter van Inwagen, "The Rev’d Mr Bayes and the Life Everlasting"

In "Infinitely Long Afterlives and the Doomsday Argument," (Philosophy, 2008) John Leslie considers the question whether an argument parallel to the so-called Doomsday Argument can be used to refute (or render irrational or highly doubtful) the thesis that any given human person—you or I, for example—will exist for ever. (He credits the cosmologist Don Page with being the first to raise this question.) The Doomsday argument is (very roughly speaking) an argument for the conclusion that one ought to assign a low probability to the hypothesis that the human species has a future that is long in comparison with recorded human history—or, indeed, long in comparison with the interval between the beginning of the industrial revolution and the present. In this paper, I will first review the Doomsday Argument, and will identify the point on which I believe its validity turns. The body of the paper will be concerned with the question whether "Doomsday-style" reasoning can be used to show that the religious doctrine of personal immortality is false (or is irrational or is highly doubtful).

Nick Wolterstorff, "The Liturgical Present Tense"

A striking feature of the Christian liturgy and of the hymns that Christians sing is that, especially on Christmas and Easter, the present tense is used when speaking of Christ's birth or resurrection. "Christ the Lord is risen today." In this talk I explore the significance of this use of the present tense. A theory that enjoyed wide acceptance among 20th century liturgical scholars is that when the liturgy is enacted, these events are re-actualized. That seems ontologically impossible. But if that is not the significance of what one might call "the liturgical present tense," what then is the significance?

Dean Zimmerman, "Defining Omnipotence"

Swinburne’s analysis of omnipotence in The Coherence of Theism requires revision in order to deal with counterexamples like Plantinga’s McEar.  Recently, Swinburne has suggested a fix in terms of the greater range of states of affairs that can be brought about by a truly omnipotent being.  Objections to the proposal are raised, and alternative definitions explored.