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Klaas J. Kraay

Klaas J. Kraay

Headshot of Klaas Kraay

Room 416, Jorgenson Hall
Department of Philosophy
350 Victoria Street
Toronto, ON
Canada, M5B 2K3

Phone: 416.979.5000 ext. 55-6165
Fax:      416.979.5272
Email:   kraay@ryerson.ca 

 
Book

Summary: Theism is the view that God exists; naturalism is the view that there are no supernatural beings, processes, mechanisms, or forces. This book explores whether things are better, worse, or neither on theism relative to naturalism. It introduces readers to the central philosophical issues that bear on this question, and it distinguishes a wide range of ways it can be answered. It critically examines four views, three of which hold (in various ways) that things are better on theism than on naturalism, and one of which holds just the opposite.

 
Edited Books

Does God Matter? features eleven original essays written by prominent philosophers of religion that address this very important, yet surprisingly neglected, question. One natural way to approach this question is to seek to understand what difference God’s existence would - or does - make to the value of the world and the well-being of its inhabitants. The first essay sets the stage for the discussion of this topic. The three essays in Section I defend versions of pro-theism: the view that God’s existence would - or does - make things better than they would otherwise be. The four essays in Section II defend anti-theism: the view that God’s existence would, or does, make things worse than they would otherwise be. The three essays in Section III consider the interplay between the existential and axiological debates concerning the existence of God. This book presents important research on a growing topic in philosophy of religion that will also be of keen interest to scholars working in other areas of philosophy (such as metaphysics, epistemology, and value theory), and in other disciplines.

In recent decades, scientific theories have postulated the existence of many universes beyond our own. The details and implications of these theories are hotly contested. Some philosophers argue that these scientific models count against the existence of God. Others, however, argue that if God exists, a multiverse is precisely what we should expect to find. Moreover, these philosophers claim that the idea of a divinely created multiverse can help believers in God respond to certain arguments for atheism. These proposals are, of course, also extremely controversial. This volume collects together twelve newly published essays – two by physicists, and ten by philosophers – that discuss various aspects of this issue. Some of the essays support the idea of a divinely created multiverse; others oppose it. Scientific, philosophical, and theological issues are considered.

 
Articles

Abstract: In a recent article (Kraay 2013, external link), I argued that some prominent responses to two important arguments for atheism invoke divine satisficing – and that the coherence and propriety of this notion have not been established. Chris Tucker (2016), external link agrees with my evaluation of divine satisficing, but disagrees with my exegesis of these responses. He argues that they should be understood as invoking motivated submaximization instead. After reviewing the dialectical situation to date, I assess whether motivated submaximization can be deployed in such a way as to defeat these argument for atheism. I argue that it’s far from clear that it can.

Abstract: In recent years, epistemologists have devoted enormous attention to this question: what should happen when two epistemic peers disagree about the truth-value of some proposition? Some have argued that that in all such cases, both parties are rationally required to revise their position in some way. Others have maintained that, in at least some cases, neither party is rationally required to revise her position. In this paper, I examine a provocative and under-appreciated argument for the latter view due to Catherine Z. Elgin (2010, 2012, 2017, and 2018). I defend it against a series of objections, and I then identify some fruitful ways in which her view could be developed further.

Abstract:

Consider this claim:

(1) If God exists, no gratuitous evil occurs.

This claim enjoys widespread assent in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion. It could be harnessed into an argument for pro-theism: it certainly looks like a reason for thinking that God’s existence would make the world better than it would otherwise be, at least if there is an appropriate causal connection between the antecedent and the consequent. But (1) is also the first premise of a widely discussed argument for atheism that continues as follows:

(2) Gratuitous evil occurs.
Therefore,
(3) God does not exist.
 
In recent decades, much of the debate about this argument (and probabilistic variants of it) has concerned the claim expressed in premise (2). Critics of this claim have defended accounts of our epistemic circumstances and capacities according to which this premise cannot reasonably be asserted. This controversial position has become known as skeptical theism, and it has generated a large and very technical literature.
        A few authors, however, have attempted to resist (1). One such strategy is developed in a series of important publications by William Hasker (1992, 2004b, 2008). If Hasker’s argument were to succeed, this would be an important result for the overall debate about whether God exists, since it would count against a prominent kind of argument for atheism. While Hasker does not explicitly consider the question of the axiological consequences of God’s existence, his argument, if sound, would also be an important result for this debate, since it would count against one line of apparent support for pro-theism.
        In section 2, I discuss certain restrictions on God’s permission of evil in order to illuminate claim (1), and in section 3, I set out Hasker’s case against it. In section 4, I clarify an important point about Hasker’s argument: I show that it does not require Hasker to maintain that God’s plan for creation requires the actual occurrence of gratuitous evil. In section 5, I set out and evaluate four criticisms of Hasker’s argument. Finally, in an Appendix, I consider the merits of a successor argument for atheism – one that is compatible with Hasker’s view.
 
Reply:

Hasker, W. (2019) "God and Gratuitous Evil: A Response to Klaas Kraay, external link." Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion 9: 54-67.


 

Abstract: Michael Almeida once told me that he thought we were just a couple of hours of conversation away from reaching deep agreement about some important topics in the philosophy of religion pertaining to God, multiverses, and modality. This paper represents my attempt to move this conversation forward and to seek this common ground. Specifically, I respond to Almeida’s 2017 paper entitled “The Multiverse and Divine Creation, external link”. In the first four sections, I record my disagreement with him concerning some smaller matters. In Section 5, I try to persuade him that what he considers a ‘bug’ in the theistic multiverse is actually a feature—and a desirable one at that. In Section 6, I close by identifying some points at which our views seem to converge.

Abstract: In contemporary analytic philosophy, the problem of evil refers to a family of arguments that attempt to show, by appeal to evil, that God does not (or probably does not) exist. Some very important arguments in this family focus on gratuitous evil. Most participants in the relevant discussions, including theists and atheists, agree that God is able to prevent all gratuitous evil, and that God would do so. On this view, of course, the occurrence of even a single instance of gratuitous evil falsifies theism. The most common response to such arguments attempts to cast doubt on the claim that gratuitous evil really occurs. The focus of these two survey papers will be a different response – one that has received less attention in the literature. This response attempts to show that God and gratuitous evil are compatible. If it succeeds, then the occurrence of gratuitous evil does not, after all, count against theism. In the prequel to this paper, I surveyed the literature surrounding the attempts by Michael Peterson and John Hick to execute this strategy. Here, I survey the attempts due to William Hasker, Peter van Inwagen, and Michael Almeida, respectively.

Abstract: In contemporary analytic philosophy, the problem of evil refers to a family of arguments that attempt to show, by appeal to evil, that God does not (or probably does not) exist. Some very important arguments in this family focus on gratuitous evil. Most participants in the relevant discussions, including theists and atheists, agree that God is able to prevent all gratuitous evil and that God would do so. On this view, of course, the occurrence of even a single instance of gratuitous evil falsifies theism. The most common response to such arguments attempts to cast doubt on the claim that gratuitous evil really occurs. The focus of these two survey papers will be a different response – one that has received less attention in the literature. This response attempts to show that God and gratuitous evil are compatible. If it succeeds, then the occurrence of gratuitous evil does not, after all, count against theism. After introducing some key terms, I survey the literature surrounding the attempts by Michael Peterson and John Hick to execute this strategy. In a follow-up paper, I discuss the attempts of William Hasker, Peter van Inwagen, and Michael Almeida, respectively.

Abstract: Defenders and critics of the evidential argument from evil typically agree that if theism is true, no gratuitous evil occurs. But Peter van Inwagen has challenged this orthodoxy by urging that for all we know, given God’s goals, it is impossible for God to prevent all gratuitous evil, in which case God is not required do so. If van Inwagen is right, the evidential argument from evil fails. After setting out this striking and innovative move, I examine three responses found in the literature, and show that none of them defeats van Inwagen’s argument. I then offer a novel criticism: I show that van Inwagen implicitly relies on the claim that God can sensibly be thought to satisfice, and I argue that this is seriously under-motivated. Accordingly, van Inwagen’s objection to the evidential argument from evil is, at best, incomplete.

Abstract: This essay discusses two issues. The first concerns whether the “insider’s” or “outsider’s” perspective is more truth-conducive in the study of religion. I do not attempt to settle this very thorny question: I merely attempt to identify some aspects of what it might mean to be an insider with respect to one kind of investigation – the investigation into whether God exists. The second issue concerns how best to characterize certain philosophical positions on the axiology of ultimate reality. Here I argue that it can be useful to group together certain axiological positions under one heading, while leaving their details open to interpretation. For example, two philosophers might agree that God’s existence would – or does – make the world far better than it would otherwise be, even though they have incompatible notions of what constitutes ‘far’ and ‘better’. In my view, it makes sense to call both thinkers pro-theists, despite their differences. In discussing these issues, I engage the work of Myron A. Penner and Paul Moser, both of whom published replies to a paper of mine, external link in the most recent issue of the Toronto Journal of Theology

Abstract: Three very prominent arguments for atheism are (1) the argument from sub-optimality, (2) the problem of no best world, and (3) the evidential argument from gratuitous evil. To date, it has not sufficiently been appreciated that several important criticisms of these arguments have all relied on a shared strategy. Although the details vary, the core of this strategy is to concede that God either cannot or need not achieve the best outcome in the relevant choice situation, but to insist that God must and can achieve an outcome that is good enough. In short, this strategy invokes divine satisficing in response to these arguments for atheism. (The widespread use of this strategy may have gone unnoticed because the appeal to divine satisficing is usually implicit.) In sections 1-3, the three arguments for atheism will be set out, and it will be shown that the relevant replies all employ this shared strategy. Section 4 will show that those who invoke divine satisficing have failed to establish that this is a coherent notion. Accordingly, these replies to three important arguments for atheism are, at present, incomplete.
 
Reply:
 
Tucker, C. (2016) "Satisficing and Motivated Submaximization (in the Philosophy of Religion), external link." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 93: 127-143.

Abstract: I’d like to thank the Canadian Theological Society for this invitation to speak. It is a double honour to be this year’s Newman Lecturer. It is an honour to be associated with the name of Jay Newman, who made impressive and wide-ranging contributions to philosophy. Jay, as you perhaps know, was especially interested in the philosophy of culture, and I’m delighted that his legacy will ensure continued interaction between the cultures of academic philosophy and theology. It is also a great honour to follow in the footsteps of the eminent previous Newman lecturers: J.L. Schellenberg, Maurice Boutin, Robert Larmer, and William Sweet (who is here today). My talk today will be divided into three parts. First, I will say a little bit about contemporary analytic philosophy of religion, and its practitioners’ beliefs. Second, I will describe and briefly evaluate four recent meta-philosophical analyses of this subdiscipline. (That’s a fancy way of saying that I’m going to air a bit of dirty laundry.) These four analyses each identify problems with this subfield, and propose solutions. Finally, I will introduce a framework for a research program in the philosophy of religion that I think these authors should all welcome.

Replies:

Abstract: For many centuries, philosophers have debated this question: “Does God exist?” Surprisingly, they have paid rather less attention to this distinct – but also very important – question: “Would God’s existence be a good thing?” The latter is an axiological question about the difference in value that God’s existence would make (or does make) in the actual world. Perhaps the most natural position to take, whether or not one believes in God, is to hold that it would be a very good thing if such a being were to exist. After all, God is traditionally thought to be perfectly powerful and good, and it might seem obvious that such a being’s existence would make things better than they would otherwise be. But this judgment has been contested: some philosophers have held that God’s existence would make things worse, and that, on this basis, one can reasonably prefer God’s non-existence. We first distinguish a wide array of axiological positions concerning the value of God’s existence which might be held by theists, atheists, and agnostics alike. We next construe these positions as comparative judgments about the axiological status of various possible worlds. We then criticize an important recent attempt to show that God’s existence would make things worse, in various ways, than they would otherwise be.
 
Replies:

  • Kahane, G. (2018) "If there is a hole, it is not God-shaped." In Does God Matter? Essays on the Axiological Consequences of Theism. Edited by K. Kraay. New York: Routledge, pp. 95-131.
     
  • Kahane, G. (forthcoming) Is anti-theism incoherent? American Philosophical Quarterly.

Abstract: In a recent paper in this journal, external link, Jason Megill (2011) offers an innovative meta-argument which deploys considerations about multiple universes in an effort to block all arguments from evil. In what follows, I contend that Megill has failed to establish a key premise in his metaargument. I also offer a rival account of the effect of multiverse models on the debate about evil.

Abstract: God is traditionally taken to be a necessarily existing being who is unsurpassably powerful, knowledgeable, and good. The familiar problem of actual evil claims that the presence of gratuitous suffering in the actual world constitutes evidence against the existence of such a being. In contrast, the problem of possible evil claims that the possibility of bad worlds constitutes evidence against theism. How? It seems plausible to suppose that there are very bad possible worlds. But if God exists in every world, then God exists in those, too. And if God exists in very bad worlds, some say, God is culpable for not ensuring that they are better. This paper considers this argument, surveys some responses, and offers a novel solution. Along the way, it argues that theists should maintain that the actual world is a multiverse featuring all and only universes worthy of being created and sustained by God, and – more controversially – it recommends that theists embrace modal collapse: the claim that this multiverse is the only possible world.

Abstract: Anselmian theism holds that there necessarily exists a being, God, who is essentially unsurpassable in power, knowledge, goodness, and wisdom. This being is also understood to be the creator and sustainer of all that is. In contemporary analytic philosophy of religion, this role is generally understood as follows: God surveys the array of possible worlds, and in his wisdom selects exactly one for actualization, based on its axiological properties.1 In this paper, I discuss an under-appreciated challenge for this account of the Anselmian God’s selection of a world. In particular, I urge that there are failures of comparability between various possible worlds, and I argue that, given certain assumptions, these failures threaten the rationality of God’s choice of a world. To the extent that rationality is deemed necessary for unsurpassability, this result also challenges the core Anselmian notion that God is an unsurpassable being.
 
Reply:
 
Penner, M. (2014) "Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Rational World-Choice, external link." International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 75: 13-25.

Abstract: God is traditionally taken to be a perfect being, and the creator and sustainer of all that is. So, if theism is true, what sort of world should we expect? To answer this question, we need an account of the array of possible worlds from which God is said to choose. It seems that either there is (a) exactly one best possible world; or (b) more than one unsurpassable world; or (c) an infinite hierarchy of increasingly better worlds. Influential arguments for atheism have been advanced on each hierarchy, and these jointly comprise a daunting trilemma for theism. In this paper, I argue that if theism is true, we should expect the actual world to be a multiverse comprised of all and only those universes which are worthy of creation and sustenance. I further argue that this multiverse is the unique best of all possible worlds. Finally, I explain how his unconventional view bears on the trilemma for theism.
 
Replies:

Abstract: God is traditionally understood to be a perfect being who is the creator and sustainer of all that is. God’s creative and sustaining activity is often thought to involve choosing a possible world for actualization. It is generally said that either there is (a) exactly one best of all possible worlds, or there are (b) infinitely many increasingly better worlds, or else there are (c) infinitely many unsurpassable worlds within God’s power to actualize. On each view, critics have offered arguments for atheism that turn on God’s choice of a world. In what follows, I first discuss some background issues, and I then survey the contemporary literature on these arguments.

Abstract: One historically-significant model of God holds that God is a perfect being. Analytic philosophers of religion have typically understood this to mean that God is essentially unsurpassable in power, knowledge, goodness, and wisdom. Recently, however, several philosophers have argued that this is inconsistent with another common theistic position: the view that for any world that God can create, there is a better world that God could have created instead. The argument runs (roughly) as follows: if, no matter which world God creates, there’s a better creatable one, then God’s action in creating a world is necessarily surpassable. And if God’s action in creating a world is necessarily surpassable, then God is necessarily surpassable. If this argument is sound, it reveals a serious flaw in an important model of God. In what follows, I set out this argument, and I then distinguish and evaluate four replies.

Abstract: I defend the first premise of William Rowe’s well-known arguments from evil against influential criticisms due to William Alston. I next suggest that the central inference in Rowe’s arguments is best understood to move from the claim that we have an absence of evidence of a satisfactory theodicy to the claim that we have evidence of absence of such a theodicy. I endorse the view which holds that this move succeeds only if it is reasonable to believe that (roughly) if there were such a theodicy, we would probably know it. After conceding that there may be modest prima facie support for this latter claim via the Principle of Credulity, I consider and reject four more ambitious arguments in its favour. I conclude that this necessary condition on Rowe’s crucial inference has not been shown to be satisfied.

Abstract: Many theists hold that for any world x that God has the power to actualize, there is a better world, y, that God had the power to actualize instead of x. Recently, however, it has been suggested that this scenario is incompatible with traditional theism: roughly, it is claimed that no being can be essentially unsurpassable on this view, since no matter what God does in actualizing a world, it is possible for God (or some other being) to do better, and hence it is possible for God (or some other being) to be better. In reply to an argument of this sort, Daniel and Frances Howard-Snyder offer the surprising claim that an essentially unsurpassable being could – consistently with his goodness and rationality – select a world for actualization at random. In what follows, I respond to the most recent contributions to this discussion. I criticize William Rowe’s new reply to the HowardSnyders (but I endorse the spirit of one of his arguments), and I claim that Edward Wierenga’s new defence of the Howard-Snyders fails. I conclude that the HowardSnyders’ argument fails to show that an essentially unsurpassable being could randomly choose a world for actualization. Accordingly, it fails to block an important argument for atheism.

Abstract: William Rowe’s a posteriori arguments for the non-existence of God are well-known. Rather less attention has been given, however, to Rowe’s intriguing a priori argument for atheism. In this paper, I examine the three published responses to Rowe’s a priori argument (due to Bruce Langtry, William Morris, and Daniel and Frances Howard-Snyder, respectively). I conclude that none is decisive, but I show that Rowe’s argument nevertheless requires more defence than he provides.

Abstract: In the central chapter of Can God Be Free?, William Rowe offers what amounts to an a priori argument for atheism. In what follows, I first clarify this argument, and I then defend it against recent criticisms due to William Hasker. Next, however, I outline four ways in which theists might plausibly reply to Rowe’s argument.

Abstract: A central tactic in Philo’s criticism of the design argument is the introduction of several alternative hypotheses, each of which is alleged to explain apparent design at least as well as Cleanthes’ analogical inference to an intelligent designer. In Part VI, Philo proposes that the world “…is an animal, and the Deity is the soul of the world, actuating it, and actuated by it” (DNR 6.3; 171); in Part VII, he suggests that “…it is a palpable and egregious partiality” to favour reason as a probable cause of apparent design over other principles such as instinct, generation, vegetation, and “… a hundred others which lie open to our conjecture” (DNR 7.11; 178); and in Part VIII, he offers an ‘Epicurean’ hypothesis according to which the appearance of design is due to matter itself.1 It is widely agreed that by the end of Part VIII, Philo has convincingly shown that the empirical evidence considerably underdetermines the conclusion Cleanthes purported it to establish. Philo, at any rate, declares a sceptical triumph: “A total suspense of judgement is here our only reasonable resource” (DNR 8.12; 186-7).
        Philo’s swift argument for divine amorality at the end of Part XI contrasts markedly with this scepticism.2 Here, Philo reasons with great confidence concerning what he takes to be the (only) four hypotheses concerning the morality of the first cause(s) of the universe: divine benevolence, divine malevolence, Manicheeism, and divine amorality. He argues briefly against the first, summarily rejects the second and third, and declares with apparent sincerity that “[t]he true conclusion is, that the original source of all things is entirely indifferent to all these principles, and has no more regard to good above ill than to heat above cold, or to drought above moisture, or to light above heavy” (DNR 11.15; 212).
        I first discuss Philo’s argument for divine amorality, and I distinguish it from his earlier criticisms of any inference from mundane data to divine benevolence. In Section 2, I diagnose deficiencies in two contrary interpretations of the argument for divine amorality. In Section 3, I offer three reasons for rejecting the surface meaning of this argument. In Section 4, I reveal Philo’s argument to be a sophisticated parody of both Cleanthes’ natural theology and his appeal to the passional influence of the design hypothesis. Philo, I argue, does not intend to show that the Deity is probably amoral; rather, he intends to show Cleanthes – by literally arguing with him “in his own way” (DNR 2.11; 145) – that the tools of Cleanthes’ ‘experimental theism’ can equally be wielded in service of a wholly incompatible view.

Abstract: Externalism holds that the individuation of mental content depends on factors external to the subject. This doctrine appears to undermine both the claim that there is a priori self-knowledge, and the view that individuals have privileged access to their thoughts. Tyler Burge’s influential inclusion theory of self-knowledge purports to reconcile externalism with authoritative self-knowledge. I first consider Paul Boghossian’s claim that the inclusion theory is internally inconsistent. I reject one line of response to this charge, but I endorse another. I next suggest, however, that the inclusion theory has little explanatory value.

 
Chapters in Books

Abstract: This article surveys the area of philosophy known as analytic philosophy of religion. This area emerged in the 1950s in the English-speaking philosophical world, and has grown considerably. Section 1 outlines its origins and characteristics. Section 2 lists venues in which this work appears, and recommends other survey-style resources. Section 3 discusses central topics in this area, including the divine attributes, arguments about the (non)existence of God, the epistemology of religious belief and experience, miracles, the meaning of life, life after death, and heaven and hell. Section 4 introduces two contemporary developments: a movement called ‘analytic theology’, and increasing philosophical reflection on nontraditional versions of theism and other religious worldviews. Section 5 discusses two important criticisms of this area: one holds that the range of topics it considers is too narrow, and the other holds that the standpoints its practitioners hold, and the methods they use, are limited and limiting.

Abstract: “What difference would – or does – God’s existence make?” In recent years, philosophers of religion have begun to tackle this question with vigour and rigour.1 As with many philosophical questions, it is deceptively simple to pose, but enormously difficult to answer. In this chapter, I set the stage for the remainder of the volume by introducing the reader to some of the core issues at stake in this area. I hope to be an impartial guide to this unfolding discussion.
        The phrase “axiology of theism” can be misleading in two respects, and so some preliminary clarifications are needed. First, since “theism” is sometimes taken to mean “belief in God”, the phrase “axiology of theism” can prompt the thought that the chief task here is to evaluate the (dis)value or (dis)utility of belief in God, or perhaps of some individual or society engaging in religious practices oriented towards God. While these are important projects in their own right, this literature does not concern them. Instead, the central goal is to attempt to understand the axiological import of God’s existence, or non-existence, for the world and its inhabitants. Second, while most of the discussion has indeed been about this issue, an important subsidiary thread has considered what sorts of preferences can be rational with respect to God’s existence or nonexistence. As we will see, one point of dispute has been whether preferences must track axiological judgments in order to be rational.
        In section 1, I attempt to clarify the central axiological question. In section 2, I distinguish a range of positions that might be held on this issue. In section 3, I set out some considerations favouring each of the main positions. In section 4, I consider some connections between the debate about the axiological consequences of God’s existence and the debate about whether God exists. In section 5, I turn to the debate about rational preferences concerning God’s existence or non-existence. Finally, in section 6, I summarize the contributions to this volume and draw key connections between them.

Abstract: In recent decades, there has been astonishing growth in scientific theorizing about multiverses. Once considered outré or absurd, multiple universe theories appear to be gaining considerable scientific respectability. There are, of course, many such theories, including (i) Everett’s (1957) many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, defended by Deutsch (1997) and others; (ii) Linde’s (1986) eternal inflation view, which suggests that universes form like bubbles in a chaotically inflating sea; (iii) Smolin’s (1997) fecund universe theory, which proposes that universes are generated through black holes; (iv) the cyclic model, recently defended using string/M theory by Steinhardt and Turok (2007), which holds that distinct universes are formed in a never-ending sequence of Big Bangs and Big Crunches; and (v) Tegmark’s (2007) “Level IV” multiverse, which contains many universes governed by distinct mathematical and scientific laws. While not all of these preclude each other, the details and implications of each one are hotly contested.
        In one area within the philosophy of religion (the debate concerning the “fine-tuning” argument), scientific multiverse theories are widely held to be hostile to theism. This is because such theories appear to account for the relevant data – the biophilic parameters of the universe we inhabit – without appeal to an intelligent designer. Yet, in recent years, several philosophers2 and one physicist3 have offered reasons for thinking that if theism is true, the actual world comprises (or probably comprises) many universes. I first set out some requirements – both scientific and otherwise – for such a theory. I then survey some problems such theories are held to face, and some prospects they are thought to have. Finally, I examine arguments both for and against the claim that multiverse theories can help theists respond to the problem of evil. I conclude that such theories advantage neither the theist or the atheist in the debate about evil: they merely require reframing arguments from evil.

Abstract: This paper surveys recent literature on the problem of no best world - an a priori argument for atheism.

Abstract: On what basis does God choose a possible world to make actual? Theists typically claim that God freely selects exactly one world on the basis of its axiological characteristics. But suppose that (a) there are infinitely many unsurpassable worlds from which to choose; or else that (b) there are no unsurpassable worlds, but instead an infinite hierarchy of increasingly better worlds. On each of these scenarios, philosophers have alleged that God is unable rationally to choose a world for actualization. In the former case, God lacks sufficient reason to select any particular world, since there are infinitely many other equally good candidates. In the latter case, God lacks sufficient reason to select any particular world, since for any world there are infinitely many better candidates. These considerations generate arguments for atheism, as follows. On theism, God is supposed to be the explanation for this world’s being actual, and God requires sufficient reasons for action. So on either scenario (a) or (b), since there is an actual world, and since God could not have had a sufficient reason for selecting it, this world was not actualized by God. In response, defenders of theism have urged that God need not have sufficient reason for choosing a world on (a) or (b): God may defensibly choose a world at random. In what follows, I evaluate this reply. I conclude that it succeeds only on the enormously implausible assumption that there is exactly one randomizer available to God.

 
Interviews

November 25, 2020

August 10, 2021

June 10, 2021

 
Annotated Bibliographies

Abstract: This article surveys some contemporary literature in analytic philosophy of religion bearing on the relationship between God and possible worlds. Most of these authors take “God” to denote an essentially omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, who is the creator and sustainer of all that contingently exists. Since the 1960s, philosophers have employed the conceptual apparatus of worlds to discuss topics pertaining to God. Very roughly, the actual world is the way things are, whereas each possible world is a way things might have been. Many philosophers believe that if God exists, he could not have failed to exist. In other words, God exists in all possible worlds; God is a necessary being. The first section of this article, God and Necessity, external link, discusses several accounts of what this means, and of the relationship between God and worlds. Worlds are widely assumed to bear axiological properties: some are good, others are bad; some are better, others are worse. Some authors have judged that God could not exist in bad worlds. Whether this counts against theism is discussed under God and Bad Worlds (The Modal Problem of Evil), external link. If all worlds bear axiological properties, and can be compared, it is natural to wonder whether the hierarchy has an upper bound. The literature concerning this topic is surveyed under Is there a Best Possible World?, external link. It is widely assumed that if God exists, he chooses a world to make actual. The next three sections of this article consider this choice: God’s Choice if there is One Best Possible World, external linkGod’s Choice if there are Multiple Best Worlds, external link, and God’s Choice if there are No Best Worlds, external link. Some authors hold that certain pairs of worlds simply cannot be compared. The literature surrounding God’s choice between such pairs is discussed under God’s Choice and Incomparable Worlds, external link. Some philosophers have recently argued that if theism is true, the actual world is a multiverse made up of many worthy universes. Their proposals are discussed under God and the Multiverse, external link. Finally, this article surveys some literature that attempts to answer the following question, with respect to the value of worlds: What Difference Would—or Does—God’s Existence Make?, external link Given space constraints, this article does not discuss arguments for God’s existence that invoke possible worlds, such as “ontological” arguments. Nor does it discuss arguments for atheism that appeal to evil, except insofar as theistic multiverse theories constitute responses.

Abstract: “The Problem of Divine Hiddenness” is an infelicitous phrase for two reasons. First, while it suggests that God both exists and hides, this phrase actually refers to a strategy of arguing that various forms of nonbelief in God constitute evidence for God’s nonexistence. Second, it suggests that there is only one problem for theistic belief here, while in fact this phrase refers to a family of arguments for atheism. This entry focuses on contemporary arguments from nonbelief to atheism. The most important of these is defended by J. L. Schellenberg. Schellenberg claims that a loving God would ensure that there is no reasonable or inculpable nonbelief in his existence, since this belief is required for human beings to enter into a relationship with God, and since (according to theism) having such a relationship with creatures is a great good, and indeed is one of God’s most important goals. But, Schellenberg argues, since such nonbelief occurs among those capable of belief in God, theism should be rejected. The citations collected under General Overviews, external link all concern Schellenberg’s argument. Other authors have independently constructed different arguments from nonbelief to atheism, and these are surveyed under Other Arguments from Nonbelief, external link. The final five sections of this bibliography survey responses to arguments from hiddenness to atheism. Most of this literature explicitly concerns Schellenberg’s argument, but many of these replies could also be directed against the other arguments surveyed here. There are important connections between the problem of divine hiddenness and the problem of evil, and the relevant literature is discussed in a preliminary section entitled Divine Hiddenness in the Context of the Problem of Evil, external link.

 
Article for Non-Specialist Audiences

Abstract: It would be impossible, in a short article like this, to say everything that really needs to be said about either “analytic philosophy, external link” or “Christian theism, external link”. (Just trying to define either of these is a formidable task all on its own!) So I won’t even try. What I will do, however, is say a little bit about the interplay between analytic philosophy – the dominant contemporary approach to academic philosophy in the English-speaking world – and Christianity. My approach will be to distinguish several important challenges that have been raised against attempts to use philosophy to defend the rational status of Christian theism. Some of these criticisms specifically target Christianity, while others are broader, aiming (for example) at belief in God in general. My goal is to give the reader a sense of what some of these challenges are all about, and how some Christian philosophers have responded – and along the way, to whet the appetite for further reading.

 
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7th Annual Ryerson Philosophy Symposium
May 14, 2014

8th Annual Ryerson Philosophy Symposium
May 15, 2015