bookmark_borderSimplicity, Theism, and Naturalism

In a recent post on his blog, Alexander Pruss presents an interesting argument regarding simplicity, theism, and naturalism. He writes:

I have argued elsewhere, as my colleague Trent Dougherty also has and earlier, that when we understand simplicity rightly, theism makes for a simpler theory than naturalism. However, suppose I am wrong, and naturalism is the simpler theory. Is that a reason to think naturalism true? I suspect not. For it is theism that explains how simplicity can be a guide to truth (say, because of God’s beauty and God’s desire to produce an elegant universe), while on naturalism we should not think of simplicity as a guide to truth, but at most as a pragmatic benefit of a theory. Thus to accept naturalism for the sake of simplicity is to cut the branch one is sitting on.

 I shared Pruss’s post with Paul Draper. Draper sent me the following reply, which he has graciously allowed me to publish here.

Simplicity is, of necessity, a prima facie theoretical virtue.  If, however, theism is true, then simplicity is not an ultima facie theoretical virtue.  If theism is true, we should expect reality to be valuable (which often requires complexity), not simple.  So exactly the opposite of Pruss’s position seems correct.

In a follow-up email, Draper attributes this point to Robin Collins. I’m not sure if this is what Draper had in mind, but Collins seems to develop this point in the Secular Web’s Great Debate (see here, skip down to “Beauty and the Laws of Nature”).

bookmark_borderGod as a ‘Necessary Being’ – Part 4

Previously, I argued that it is not possible to become eternal. Recall that a person P is eternal if and only if P has always existed and P will always continue to exist. Here is a step-by-step proof showing that it is impossible for a person to become eternal:
<————|———–|————–>
…………….t1………..t2
1. At time t1 person P is NOT eternal AND at a later moment t2 P is eternal. (supposition for indirect proof/reduction to absurdity)
2. At time t1 P is NOT eternal. (from 1)
3. At time t2 P is eternal. (from 1)
4. At t2 P exists. (from 3)
5. At every moment prior to t2 P exists. (from 3)
6. At every moment after t2 P exists. (from 3)
7. At t2 P exists AND at every moment prior to t2 P exists AND at every moment after t2 P exists. (from 4, 5, and 6)
8. If at t2 P exists AND at every moment prior to t2 P exists AND at every moment after t2 P exists, THEN at every moment P exists. (analytic truth)
9. At every moment P exists. (from 7 and 8)
10. EITHER at t1 P does not exist OR at some moment prior to t1 P does not exist OR at some moment after t1 P does not exist. (from 2)
11. If at t1 P does not exist, then there is a moment when P does not exist. (analytic truth)
12. If at some moment prior to t1 P does not exist, then there is a moment when P does not exist. (analytic truth)
13. If at some moment after t1 P does not exist, then there is a moment when P does not exist.(analytic truth)
14. There is a moment when P does not exist. (from 10, 11, 12, 13)
15. Any moment when P does not exist is a moment when it is NOT the case that P exists. (analytic truth)
16. There is a moment when it is NOT the case that P exists. (from 14 and 15)
17. It is NOT the case that at every momement P exists. (from 16)
18. At every moment P exists AND it is NOT the case that at every moment P exists. (from 9 and 17)

19. The following statement is FALSE: At time t1 person P is NOT eternal AND at a later moment t2 P is eternal. (1 through 18, indirect proof/ reduction to absurdity, because 18 is a self-contradiction that was deduced from 1).
Thus, it is logically impossible for a person to become eternal.
I have been thinking about omnipotence and the idea of omnipotence as an essential property of some person.
Some of my thoughts remind me of the conversations that boys in Jr. high used to have: “What if Superman was to get into a fight with Batman? I think Superman could take one swing at Batman and knock him so hard that he would land a block away.” Such conversations seem silly and trivial, but in the case of philosophy, it can be helpful to have a childlike enjoyment of such imaginary scenarios. Imagination helps one to map out the logical boundaries of a concept, plus it makes thinking about God fun, even for an atheist.
We have previously seen that ‘existence’ appears to be an essential property for anything that in fact exists, so if ‘necessary existence’ means ‘having existence as an essential property’ then necessary existence is nothing special. We have also seen that ‘being eternal’ is an attribute that cannot be lost; once something is eternal, it will always be eternal (and will always have been eternal). So, again having the property of ‘being eternal’ as an essential property is nothing special, there is no other way of ‘being eternal’. One cannot have the property of ‘being eternal’ as an accidental property.
I eventually want to figure out what it means for a person to have the property of ‘being eternally omnipotent’ as an essential property. But before I tackle that challenge, it may be helpful to first consider the simpler property of just being omnipotent. After that I will consider the more complex idea of having the property of omnipotence as an essential property.
Being omnipotent does not mean that one can literally do anything. An omnipotent being cannot create a four-sided triangle. This is no limitation of power or ability. The idea of a four-sided triangle is incoherent, so the statement “John made a four-sided triangle” is an incoherent statement, a statement that contains a self-contradiciton.
Can an omnipotent being create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it? I agree with Swinburne’s analysis of this traditional problem. The answer is: YES.
But in order to do so, the omnipotent being must make itself less than omnipotent. Time is the key missing ingredient in this puzzle. At one point in time an omnipotent being creates a massive rock, say a rock that has ten times the mass of our universe. Then the omnipotent being causes itself to have a certain degree of weakness- the inability to lift rocks that are ten times the mass of our universe. Now the being is unable to lift the massive rock. The being, however, has sacrificed its omnipotence in order to achieve this feat, but it is a feat that an omnipotent being can achieve.
The being started out as an omnipotent being, formed the objective of creating a rock that it could not lift, and then using its unlimited power acheived that objective. However, in order to achieve the objective the being must sacrifice its omnipotence.
There are various other limitations on what God can do. God cannot change the past. This is because changing the past would involve backwards causation, and backwards causation is logically impossible. So, again God’s inablility to change the past is not a weakness or lack of power. The problem is, rather, that sentences like “John changed the past” are incoherent; they involve a logical self-contradiction.
Omnipotence can come into conflict with other divine attributes. God is perfectly good, and so according to Aquinas and Swinburne God cannot do evil. God’s goodness thus creates a limitation on what God can do. Human beings can be unjust and cruel but God is not able to be unjust or cruel, on this view. So human beings can do some things that God is unable to do. But this is considered to be a ‘legitimate’ exception or limitation of God’s power. So, when Christians assert that ‘God is omnipotent’ they usually will allow that God’s perfect goodness creates constraints on what God can do.
One might say that God can do anything that it is LOGICALLY POSSIBLE for a perfectly free and omniscient and perfectly good person to do.
I think there are some additional constraints on God’s power or ability to do things, but this clarification of ‘omnipotence’ covers the constraints that arise from God’s other divine attributes.
Can a person become omnipotent? or is omnipotence like the attribute of being eternal? One cannot become an eternal person, so perhaps it is also impossible for one to become an omnipotent person.
On the face of it, I don’t see an obvious problem with the idea of becoming omnipotent. Human beings have various powers and abilities. We can imagine becoming more and more powerful. One can imagine discovering one day that one can make objects ex nihilo (from nothing) just by willing the objects to appear. One can imagine stumbling on the power to move mountains or even planets by sheer willpower. Of course one could never have enough experiences to prove with certainty that one had become omnipotent, but we can imagine experiences that would strongly support this hypothesis. Thus, it seems perfectly conceivable that an ordinary human being could become an omnipotent person.
But once a person becomes omnipotent, one might think that they could never lose their omnipotence. We think of gaining great power as being like obtaining great wealth: someone else could take away what we have gained. But in the case of omnipotence, who could take that away? If I’m the biggest and strongest kid at school, then I don’t need to worry about a bully taking my lunch money, right? If I become omnipotent, then I don’t have to worry about any being taking away any of my power.
But what if there was another omnipotent person? Such a person, it would seem could take away my omnipotence, because our power would be equal, so I would not be like the biggest and strongest kid on the block, if there were other omnipotent persons who might want to take away some of my power.
However, there is an old puzzle about omnipotence that comes to mind: Can there be two omnipotent persons? It seems as if there can be no more than just one omnipotent person. Suppose that there are two omnipotent persons: John and Sara. John and Sara both simultaneously look at the same little gray rock resting on a desk. John wills the rock to immediately rise up into the sky, but Sara wills the rock to immediately plummet downward, through the desk and through the floor and the foundation, etc. These two objectives are not logically compatible with each other. The rock cannot both rise and fall at the same time. So, either the rock will rise and Sara’s will will be defeated by John’s will, or the rock will NOT rise and John’s will will be defeated by Sara’s will. At least one of them must fail to cause their desired outcome.
Let’s suppose that there can only be one omnipotent person in existence at any given point in time. Does that mean that becoming omnipotent, and thus being the one and only omnipotent person, would mean complete safety? Does this mean that I have no reason to fear losing some of my newly gained power? Sadly, it does not. Even if there can be at most only one omnipotent person, there is nothing to prevent some other person from being or becoming omniscient (all knowing).
If I have become omnipotent, I would still be in danger of losing my omnipotence if some other person was omniscient. This would set up the classic struggle between brains and brawn. The omniscient person would know everything about me, including my deepest secrets and my every thought. The omniscient person would know all of my weaknesses. The omniscient person would know every detail of my personal history. The omniscient person would know everything there was to know about human psychology and about how to persuade and manipulate other people. So, it is quite possible that an omniscient person could fool me into destroying myself or causing myself to become less than omnipotent, perhaps even getting me to make that other person into the one and only omnipotent person, and then that person would be both omniscient and omnipotent.
However, an omnipotent person does have a way to fight back. An omnipotent person could make himself or herself become omniscient. There is no obvious logical contradiction between there being two or more omniscient persons. Two people can know the same fact without there being any conflict or contradiction, for example. So, if an omnipotent person was concerned about the possibility of being fooled or manipulated by an omniscient person, then he or she could simply will it to be the case that he or she immediately became omniscient, and presumably a being that was both omnipotent and omniscient would not have to worry about a being that was merely omniscient being able to fool or manipulate him or her.
Nevertheless, although there is this nice strategy for how a person could easily secure his or her newly discovered omnipotence, there is no logical necessity that this would be the case. If you wake up tomorrow morning and have become an omnipotent being while you were asleep, it will probably take several hours or days before you have enough experiences to confidently conclude that you have become omnipotent. The experiences you have that convince you of this fact would be quite unusual and extraordinary experiences (such as moving the moon across the sky with just a thought), and those experiences would keep you very distracted for a while. You probably would not immediately start thinking about the question “How can I secure my omnipotence, so that if there is a omniscient being somewhere I can avoid being fooled or manipulated by that being into giving up or losing my omnipotence?”. For as long as you do not think about this question, you would be vulnerable to being deceived by an omniscient person.
Furthermore, even if you immediately began to worry about this possibility of being decieved by an omniscient person, you might not immediately come up with the solution of making yourself become omniscient. Having been an ordinary weak human being for many years, your attitudes and beliefs about yourself may take time to change, and you might not immediately realize that you have gained the ability to radically transform yourself.
Even if you immediately started to worry about the possibility of being deceived by an omniscient person, and even if you immediately realized that you had the power to make yourself omniscient, you might well hesitate to do so. You have lived your entire life up to that moment as a limited and finite human being, and willing yourself to become omniscient would mean basically willing yourself to become God. But being omniscient or having a God-like experience of reality would be radically different from experiencing reality as a limited and finite human being. Would you really want to give up ordinary human thoughts and feelings and experiences, to become a god-like being? The idea seems terrifying to me. I would certainly hesitate, and give some thought to the matter before turning myself into an omniscient person.
So, although it may be possible for an omnipotent person to turn himself or herself into a person who was also omniscient, it is quite possible that it would take a significant amount of time for a person who had recently become omnipotent to become worried about the possibility of being deceived by an omniscient person, to come up with the solution of making oneself omniscient, and to actually make the very serious decision to carry out this plan and make oneself omniscient, and some might well decide to live with the risk rather than to so radically transform their own consciousness of reality. Thus, it is likely that there would be a significant period of time in which a person who had become omnipotent would remain less than omniscient and thus would be subject to being deceived or manipulated by an omniscient person, so that the omnipotent person would destroy himself or herself or would cause the loss of his or her own omnipotence.
Therfore, it seems to me that not only is it possible for a person of finite and limited power to become an omnipotent person, but it is also possible for an omnipotent person to lose his or her omnipotence.

bookmark_borderGod as a ‘Necessary Being’ – Part 3

Richard Swinburne analyzes the concept of ‘necessary being’ into two implications (COT, p.241-242):
1. It is not a matter of fortunate accident that there is a God; he exists necessarily.
2. God is necessarily the kind of being which he is; God does not just happen to have the properties which he does.

In his simpler and more popular book on God (Is There a God?), Swinburne clarifies these implications further in terms of the concept of ‘essential properties’:
But theism does not claim merely that the person who is God has these properties of being everlastingly omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free. It claims that God has these properties necessarily–these are essential properties of God.
(ITAG, p.18)
Swinburne also defines this concept for us (see ITAG, p.18). Here is my formulation of Swinburne’s definition:
Definition 3:
Property P is an ESSENTIAL PROPERTY of a thing or a person X if and only if X could not cease to have property P and yet continue to exist.
In a comment on Part 2 of this series, Eric Sotnak points out a serious problem with this definition in relation to ‘necessary existence’. If we treat existence as a property and draw the implication that ‘necessary existence’ equates with having existence as an ‘essential property’, then every thing that exists would have necessary existence, and thus there would be nothing special about God possessing ‘necessary existence’.
I’m not sure how Swinburne would respond to this objection. However, for now, given that there are two parts to Swinburne’s analysis of ‘necessary being’, I’m goin to suggest that existence is not a property, and therefore Swinburne’s discussion about ‘essential properties’ does not apply to the concept of ‘necessary existence’.
That still leaves us with the question of whether part 2 of Swinburne’s analysis makes sense, given his definition of ‘essential properties’.
Before I begin working through a specific example, let me share a key passage from Swinburne that I’m struggling with:
By contrast, theism maintains that the personal being who is God cannot lose any of his powers or knowledge or become subject to influence by desire. If God lost any of his powers, he would cease to exist, just as my desk would cease to exist if it ceased to occupy space. And eternity (that is, everlastingness) also being an essential property of God, no individual who had begun to exist or could cease to exist would be God.
(ITAG, p.19)
Note how Swinburne relates the concepts of ‘eternity’ and ‘everlastingness’ to the concept of existence. By itself that makes perfect sense. If God is ‘eternal’ that implies that God has always existed and that God will always continue to exist. But then being ‘eternal’ or ‘everlasting’ implies existence, and Swinburne’s definition of essential properties does not work with the concept of existence.
Let’s suppose that ‘eternity’ is a property, and that some person P has this property. Can P be eternal on Monday, cease being eternal on Tuesday, and yet continue to exist for the remainder of Tuesday and the next day (Wednesday) as well?
This doesn’t seem to make sense to me. If P is eternal on Monday, that means that P will continue to exist forever. If P will continue to exist forever, then P will exist every day following that Monday. If P ceases to exist the next day, on Tuesday, then P will NOT have continued to exist forever, and the statement “P will continue to exist forever” (made on Monday) will have been dispoved, shown to be false. But that means that it was also false to say “P is eternal” (on Monday). In sum, if there is ever a day where P ceases to exist, then the claim “P is eternal” will be a false claim for any day prior to the day when P ceases to exist.
Now something like resurrection does seem logically possible, so it might be possible for a person to cease to exist for a period of time, and then come back into existence. If this is logically possible, then there is a sense in which ‘P is eternal’ might be correct, even if P later ceases to exist. If P ceases to exist for a period of time, and then P is brought back into existence and then continues to exist forever, without interruption, it is tempting to say that the claim “P is eternal” was correct even though there was a period of time (after that claim was made) in which P did not exist.
This particular complexity can be set aside by means of a definition. The meaning of ‘eternal’ in terms of this being a divine attribute implies that there will be no interruption of existence. In asserting that ‘God is eternal’ the theist means that God has always existed (without interruption) in the past, and that God will always continue to exist (without interruption) forever into the future.
Thus in supposing that a person P is eternal on Monday, in the sense intended when theists use this concept to describe God, it follows that P will also be eternal on Tuesday, and eternal on Wednesday, and so on forever and ever. Once you are eternal there is no going back to being non-eternal, at least not in terms of continuing to exist in the future.
What about the implication of having always existed in the past? Being eternal does not just mean existing forever into the future, it also means having always existed forever in the past.
Suppose again that a person P is eternal on Monday. We have previously determined that P cannot cease to exist on some day in the future, after that Monday, for that would mean that P was not really eternal on Monday. But what about P’s having always existed in the past? Could it be the case that on Monday P had always existed in the past, but that on Tuesday it was no longer the case that P had always existed in the past? Could this property of having always existed in the past go away?
The past cannot change. Let’s assume that this not a matter of physics, but is a matter of logic. Let’s assume that it is logically impossible for the past to change. So, if on Monday it was true that P had existed the previous Friday, then on the day after Monday (on Tuesday) it must still be the case that P had existed on the previous Friday. And if it was true on Monday that P had existed for every previous day back into eternity, then on the day after Monday (on Tuesday) it would still be the case that P had existed on each of those days prior to Monday.
Of course, P might cease to exist on Tuesday morning, and if so then on Wednesday it would be incorrect to say that ‘P has always existed’ since P would not have existed on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning. But the possibility of P ceasing to exist on Tuesday morning is ruled out, because if it was in fact true on Monday that ‘P is eternal’ then P could not cease to exist on any day after Monday, including Tuesday.
So, it seems to me that if we treat ‘eternity’ or being ‘eternal’ as a property, this is an odd sort of property that one cannot eliminate or get rid of, in the way that one can eliminate or get rid of the property of being dirty or of being hungry. Once a person is eternal, that person will always be eternal; there is no going back.
OK. What about the idea of some person having the attribute of being eternal as an essential property? Does this make sense?
Suppose that there is a person Q who is essentially eternal, who possesses this property as an essential property. That means that Q is not only eternal but, according to the definition, if Q loses the property of being eternal, then Q will cease to exist. Do you see a problem here?
Q cannot lose the property of being eternal, because it is logically impossible for any person to lose the property of being eternal. So, we might as well say “If Q loses the property of being eternal, then Q will turn into a giant fire-breathing dragon”. The antecedent of the conditional statement will always be false, because it is logically impossible for any person to lose the property of being eternal. Because the antecedent is necessarily false, the conditional statement is necessarily true; it is a logically necessary truth.
Thus, it seems to me that ANY person who has the property of being eternal is also a person who has the property of being eternal as an essential property (given Swinburne’s definition above). Thus, there does not appear to be anything special or unique about having this property as an essential property. There cannot be any person who has the property of being eternal, but has this property as an accidental property rather than as an essential property.
To be continued…

bookmark_borderGod as a ‘Necessary Being’ – Part 2

Although there is an extensive discussion of the meaning of the claim ‘God is a necessary being’ by Richard Swinburne in his bookThe Coherence of Theism (revised edition, hereafter: COT), the main passages that I’m interested in understanding are found in a shorter and more popular book: Is There a God? (hereafter: ITAG), also by Swinburne.
In COT, Swinburne specifies two implications of the claim that ‘God is a necessary being’:
However, most theists, and certainly most theologians, have put forward two further claims [in addition to the usual claims about God’s divine attributes: omniscience, omnipotence, perfect goodness, etc.] which they have made central to their theism…. The first such claim is that God does not just happen to exist. It is not a matter of fortunate accident that there is a God; he exists necessarily. The other is that God is necessarily the kind of being which he is; God does not just happen to have the properties which he does. It is not by chance that he is omnipotent or omniscient. Being omnipotent is part of God’s nature.
(COT, p.241-242)
This gives us a general understanding and a feel for the meaning of the claim that ‘God is a necessary being’.
In ITAG, Swinburne provides further discussion of what this means, a discussion that is simpler and easier to follow than what he says in COT. First, he briefly explains the idea that God’s divine attributes are possessed necessarily:
But theism does not claim merely that the person who is God has these properties of being everlastingly omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free. It claims that God has these properties necessarily–these are essential properties of God.
(ITAG, p.18)
So, to say that, for example, ‘God has the property of being everlastingly omnipotent necessarily‘ means that ‘Being everlastingly omnipotent is an essential property of the person who is God’.
But this is only helpful if we understand what it means for a property to be an ‘essential property’ of a thing or a person. Here is his initial clarification:
Every object has some essential properties and some accidental (i.e. non-essential) properties. The essential properties of an object are those which it cannot lose without ceasing to exist.
(ITAG, p.18)
Swinburne gives two examples to illustrate this concept. The first example is about a physical object:
One of the essential properties of my desk, for example, is that it occupies space. It could not cease to occupy space (become disembodied) and yet continue to exist. Byt contrast, one of its accidental properties is being brown. It could still exist if I painted it red so that it was no longer brown.
(ITAG, p.18)
He gives a second example about a person (himself):
Persons are essentially objects with the potential to have (intentional) powers, purposes, and beliefs. I may be temporarily paralysed and unconscious and so have temporarily lost the power to think or move my limbs. But, if I lose the potential to have these powers (if I lose them beyond the power of medical or other help to restore them), then I cease to exist. On the other hand, my powers can grow or diminish, and my beliefs can change (I can forget things I once knew, and aquire new areas of knowledge), while the same I continues to exist through all the change.
(ITAG, p.18-19)
If Swinburne loses the potential to have the power of thinking, then Swinburne will cease to exist (even if his body continues to exist). So the property of ‘having the potential to have power of thinking’ is an essential property of Swinburne. But if Swinburne forgets the proof for Bayes Theorem, he can continue to exist. So, knowing the proof for Bayes Theorem is only an accidental property of Swinburne.
Definition 3:
Property P is an ESSENTIAL PROPERTY of a thing or a person X if and only if X could not cease to have property P and yet continue to exist.

To be continued…

bookmark_borderGod as a ‘Necessary Being’ – Part 1

In his book The Coherence of Theism (Revised edition, hereafter: COT), Swinburne defends the claim that the sentence ‘God exists’ makes a coherent statement.
In Part II of COT, Swinburne defends the coherence of the concept of “a contingent God”, which is basically the traditional concept of God minus the attribute of ‘necessary being’. In Part III, Swinburne analyzes, clarifies, and defines the attribute ‘necessary being’, but he concludes that when this attribute is added back into the concept of ‘God’, it is no longer possible to prove in a direct way that the concept of ‘God’ is coherent, or that the claim ‘God exists’ makes a coherent statement.
The basic problem is that God is a person, but the concept of person allows for the logical possibility of gaining or losing knowledge, and gaining or losing power, and gaining or losing freedom. When it is asserted that ‘God is a necessary being’ the implication is that it is NOT possible for God to gain or lose power, to gain or lose knowledge, or to gain or lose freedom. So, God is a very odd sort of person, a person whose very existence has a necessary connection with his continuing to be omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly free.
Swinburne’s analysis of the attribute ‘necessary being’ is complex and difficult. I’m not going to get into the gory details of his analyis. But even the general outlines of Swinburne’s understanding of this attribute are challenging to understand. I’m not entirely clear on what he means myself. But I’m going to attempt to understand and clarify some of the points Swinburne makes about ‘necessry being’. I will do this partly to help others understand this concept, but also partly to improve and clarify my own understanding (one of the best ways to get clearer on an idea is to try to explain it to other people).
Let’s start with a stripped-down version of Swinburne’s analysis of ‘a divine being’:
Definition 1:
X is A DIVINE BEING if and only if X is a person who is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free.

Let’s note some important aspects of this definition. First, on this definition, something can be ‘a divine being’ for a brief period of time. This concept of ‘a divine being’ would be useful to Mormons, for example, because they believe that humans can evolve to become gods, and that God was once a limited and finite person. Given Definition 1, a person can be a limited and finite human being for several decades, and then become ‘a divine being’.
Another important thing to note about Definition 1 is that it allows for a person to be ‘a divine being’ even if that person has only existed for a few years or a few days. So long as a person is omnipotent NOW, and omniscient NOW, and perfectly free NOW, that person is correctly categorized as ‘a divine being’.
But, as Swinburne asserts, traditional theism makes a stronger claim than this. When theists assert that ‘God exists’ they have something more in mind than just that there is a person who has recently become omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free. They are asserting that there is a person who HAS ALWAYS had those divine attributes, and who ALWAYS WILL have those attributes.
We can formulate a revised definition that is more in keeping with traditional theism:
Definition 2:
X is A DIVINE BEING if and only if X is a person who has always been omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free, and who always will be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free.

On this narrower definition, the being worshipped by Mormons would not count as ‘a divine being’ because there was a point in time in the past when (according to Mormon doctrine) this person was NOT omnipotent or NOT omniscient or NOT perfectly free. Such a being would be impressive now, but given its less impressive level of power, knowledge, and/or freedom in the past, would be something less than ‘a divine being’ if we go with Definition 2.
Also worth noting is that in order to have ALWAYS been omnipotent, a person must have ALWAYS been in existence. And in order to ALWAYS continue to be omnipotent, a person must ALWAYS continue to exist. Thus, any being that satisfies the conditions set by Definition 2 must be an eternal being, a person who has always existed in the past, and who will always continue to exist in the future.
According to Swinburne, the word ‘God’ is a proper name that should be understood in terms of a definite description that allows us to pick out or identify one particular person. The definite description is basically the same as the characterization of ‘a divine person’. So, this characterization is supposed to apply to one, and only one, person:
ANALYSIS of ‘God exists’:
GOD EXISTS is true if and only if (a) something is a divine being, and (b) nothing else is a divine being.

For this analysis of ‘God exists’ to represent traditional theism, the phrase ‘a divine being’ needs to be understood in terms of Definition 2, rather than Definition 1.
Suppose that we determine that a particular person has always existed and that this person has always been omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free. What about determining if this person will always continue to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free? This determination might be possible in a couple of ways.
First, the person in question might communicate to us that he/she would continue to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free for all eternity. If we were already convinced that this person was omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free, then we would have good reason to believe this person was telling us the truth. Being omniscient, the person would know whether it was true that he/she would continue to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free for all eternity, and being both omniscient and perfectly free, the person would (according to Swinburne’s argumentation) have to be perfectly good, and thus would not be a great deceiver, so we could trust this person to tell us the truth on this matter.
But even if we could not base this determination on ‘divine revelation’ (as described in the previous paragraph), we would have good inductive reason to believe that this person would continue to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free. Since we have already concluded that the person has always been omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free (stretching back in to eternity in the past), it makes great sense to infer that it is highly probable that this person will continue to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free for a long time to come, perhaps for all eternity.
Thus, it seems possible that we could determine that some person satisfied the conditions required to be ‘a divine person’. If we also became convinced, perhaps by a philosophical argument, that there could be AT MOST just one such person, then we could identify a particular person as being ‘God’ and conclude that ‘God exists’.
But even if we somehow were able to come to this incredible conclusion, there would still be a philosophical/conceptual problem that would mean that traditional theism had not yet been fully verified. According to Swinburne, traditional theists also maintain that God is ‘a necessary being’. One of the key implications of this is that it is NOT sufficient for a person to have always been omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free, and to always continue to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free into eternity in order for that person to be ‘God’. As ‘a necessary being’ it is NOT a matter of chance that this being has always been and will always be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly free. This person is such that it is not possible for him/her to be anything less than ‘a divine being’.
Take the eternal existence of this person, for example. A being could conceivably be lucky and simply avoid by chance numerous bad events and circumstances which would have put an end to the existence of that being. Continuing to exist for all eternity on the basis of chance or good luck is not enough to qualify a person as having the sort of eternality that God is supposed to have. The eternal existence of God cannot rest on chance or luck, it must somehow be necessary and unavoidable that God continues to exist for all eternity.
In other words, given the above analysis of ‘God exists’ and given that we understand ‘a divine person’ in terms of Definition 2, this still leaves open the possibility that we locate and identify a person who has IN FACT always existed, and who will IN FACT always continue to exist, but this person is not really and fully ‘God’ because his/her continued existence is a matter of chance or luck, and is not absolutely secure.
So, the definition needs to be revised again, in order to add the attribute of ‘necessary being’ into the concept of ‘a divine being’ and thus into the analysis of the sentence ‘God exists’.

bookmark_borderAtheistic Moral Realism – Part 11

If I understand William Craig’s third objection to AMR, then he is basically offering an inductive  teleological argument for the existence of God (similar to how Richard Swinburne argues for God)  based on the assumption that there are objective moral values plus the claim that humans and the circumstances in which humans find themselves are such as to allow humans to live morally significant lives (we have free will, are able to grasp moral principles, are able to reason from moral principles to specific moral judgments, we have some tendency to behave in accordance with morality, and also face temptations to behave contrary to moral duties, and we have lots of opportunities to make morally significant choices that impact the lives of others).
Craig also needs to claim that not only is this correspondence between objective moral values and the nature of human life to be expected on theism, but that it is “fantastically improbable” from an atheistic or naturalist point of view.
If morality is a purely subjective thing, then God does not exist. At least, God as conceived of by most theists does not exist. The word ‘God’ as used by most theists entails ‘a perfectly morally good person’. If there are no objective moral values, then there is no such thing as a person who is ‘a perfectly morally good person’. That is to say, sentences of the form “So-and-so is a perfectly morally good person” are neither true nor false.  Since no such statement is true of any person, no person could be objectively identified as being a perfectly morally good person, and thus no person could be objetively identified as being ‘God’.
Of course, even if morality was purely subjective, there could still be an eternal, omnipotent, omniscient person who created the universe.  But if there were such a person, we could never conclude that this person was a perfectly morally good person.
Since we could not conclude that any person was perfectly morally good, we also could not conclude that any person is worthy of worship. An all-powerful and all-knowing creator would simply be a interesting and unusual person, but there would be no compelling reason to worship this person. If there is no person who is perfectly good, then there is no person who is worthy of worship, and no person worthy of the title ‘God’, in the sense that most theists intend.
What if morality is objective? What if there were “objective moral values”? Craig’s implied teleological argument assumes that there are such values, and also that it is “fantastically improbable” that the random natural process of evolution would lead to the origin of human creatures who were capable of living morally significant lives. Why would random natural processes have any tendency or inclination to favor the existence of such creatures?
If moral principles and moral virtues serve the purpose of helping humans to thrive, then it might well be the case that moral principles and moral virtues also help humans to survive and to pass on their DNA. In other words, if the purpose of morality is to help humans thrive, then morality might well have survival value.
According to Jesus, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. In other words, the rule (one of the Ten Commandments) to take a day off from work each week serves the purpose of helping people to thrive (to be happy, healthy, cooperative, and successful). It is the benefits to human beings that justifies having such a rule. If, on the other hand, following this rule was harmful to humans or made human life miserable, then there would be no good reason to have or to follow such a rule.
If this is true of morality in general, if the purpose of morality is to benefit human beings, to help us to be happy, healthy, cooperative, and successful, then the purpose of morality is to help humans to thrive. If this is the purpose of morality, then morality appears to have some significant survival value. It appears to be something that helps human beings to survive and to pass on their DNA to future generations of human creatures, in comparison with humans or human-like creatures who have no morality, follow no moral principles, have no moral virtues.
In the debate between William Craig and Richard Taylor, Taylor makes some comments along such lines in his opening statement:
You don’t have to be religious to realize that for human beings to live in peace and happiness, they must not assault each other. I may want to assault, but I do not want to be assaulted. If I’m tempted to theft, still I do not want to be stolen from. If I’m tempted to murder, I do not want to be murdered. The rule thus emerges: Let no one do these things. Then we can live in peace. Then we can realize the human goods we need. Now if anyone thinks that we wouldn’t know that if God had not come down and given these laws to Moses on Mount Sinai, if anyone thinks we wouldn’t know that otherwise, that person must believe in the tooth fairy.
[…]
The natural basis of ethics is human need. There are certain things which all of us hate. We hate to bleed, we hate to be wounded, we hate to be killed, we hate to be stolen from, and we make our laws according to this. The natural basis is certain universal needs: the need for security, for safety, for love, the need to bring up our families in security, to teach our children to fulfill our own potentials as we can, and having these needs, we have rules. We have rules, and they are important.
(Craig–Taylor Debate: Is the Basis for Morality Natural or Supernatural?
http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/craig-taylor1.html
viewed 6/1/13)
If Taylor is correct that morality serves the basic needs of human beings for security, safety, and for love, then morality appears to have survival value, and Craig’s claim that it is “fantastically improbable” that the natural process of evolution would have a tendency to favor the origin of moral creatures (of creatures capable of living morally significant lives) is false. If morality has survival value, then it is NOT highly improbable that evolution would produce creatures who have characteristics that correspond with “objective moral values”.
However, Taylor’s view is that morality is conventional. Morality is something that human beings came up with in order to serve various basic human needs (for security, safety, love, etc.). If morality is something that human beings made or invented, then this would explain why morality has the PURPOSE of helping humans to thrive or to obtain basic human needs.
On the other hand, if “objective moral values” exist as necessary truths or as abstract entities like numbers, then it is unclear why “objective moral values” would have any tendency to serve basic human needs or to serve the purpose of helping humans to thrive, to be happy, healthy, safe, secure, and successful. So, Craig, or other defenders of Christianity could still press a similar point: it is fantastically improbable that such “objective moral values” would just happen to serve the purpose of helping humans to thrive.

bookmark_borderAtheistic Moral Realism – Part 10

When I argue against the resurrection of Jesus, I generally take a two-pronged approach. First, I argue that there are various good reasons to doubt the claim that Jesus was alive and walking around on the first Easter Sunday. Second, I make a concession for the sake of argument; I grant the supposition that Jesus was alive and walking around on the first Easter Sunday. Then I point out that this assumption, an assumption that Christian apologists work very hard to try to prove, actually provides a powerful reason to doubt that Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday, and thus the concession hurts the case for the resurrection.
In general, this is a strong way to argue for a skeptical position. First, lay out skeptical arguments that cast doubt on your opponent’s basic assumptions. Second, grant for the sake of argument some of the key assumptions of your opponent, and show that even if those assumptions are true, your opponent’s conclusion does not follow (or better: your opponent’s conclusion is cast into doubt by his own assumptions).
In thinking about Craig’s third objection to AMR, it occurs to me that he is probably using this same strategy in making his case against AMR. His first two objections are arguing that atheism and moral realism are logically incompatible ideas. One can be an atheist but this rules out moral realism, or one can be a moral realist, but this rules out atheism. Craig is arguing that we cannot have our cake and eat it too.
But the third objection that Craig makes against AMR is NOT an argument for the view that atheism and moral realism are logically incompatible. Rather, it is an argument that moral realism makes atheism unlikely or improbable. The idea is that moral realism provides the basis for a version of the teleological argument or argument from design.
Namely, it is unlikely that random natural processes would produce creatures who have natures that fit well with objective moral values, if there were such a thing as objective moral values. However, if there were a morally perfect person who created the universe, then this creator would have a good reason to bring about the existence of creatures with natures that fit well with objective moral values. Thus, the existence of such creatures provides inductive evidence for the existence of a perfectly good creator, whose existence would make it somewhat likely or probable that creatures with natures that fit well with objective moral values would come to exist.
Craig is in effect saying, “Suppose for the sake of argument that I’m wrong, and that moral realism and atheism are logically compatible ideas. Nevertheless, moral realism provides a strong inductive reason for rejecting atheism, so moral realism comes with a serious cost for atheists who wish to claim that their atheism is a rationally justified belief.”
This sort of teleological argument for the existence of God is at the heart of the case for God made by Richard Swinburne. Swinburne believes that there are objective moral values, but that the basic principles of morality are necessary truths, and thus that their truth is independent of the existence of God.
So, Craig could have said this:
“Look at Swinburne, he believes that there are objective moral values, and that these values don’t depend on God. Nevertheless, Swinburne argues that human creatures have just the sort of characteristics that make it possible for humans to have morally significant lives: free will, the ability to grasp moral truths, desires that bring temptation to act contrary to morality, desires to be good and loving towards others, and lots of opportunities to be good and helpful towards other people and creatures or to be bad and harmful towards other people and creatures.
If the universe in general, and humans in particular are merely the product of random natural processes, then all of these facts about the universe and human beings would be a very improbable coincidence. But if the universe and human beings are the product of a perfectly good creator, then these characteristics of reality and human beings are to be expected, or are at least somewhat probable.”
To be continued…

bookmark_borderAtheistic Moral Realism – Part 9

I have argued previously that Craig’s first two objections to AMR are weak at best. The third objection might not be as weak as the previous two. However, the third objection is the most unclear of the three, so if it turns out to be a strong objection, that will be because we help Craig to clearly formulate his third objection.
William Craig’s third objection to AMR is given in a single brief paragraph:
Third, it is fantastically improbable that just the sort of creatures would emerge from the blind evolutionary process who correspond to the abstractly existing realm of moral values. This would be an utterly incredible coincidence. It is almost as though the moral realm knew that we were coming. It is far more plausible that both the natural realm and the moral realm are under the hegemony or authority of a divine designer and lawgiver than to think that these two entirely independent orders of reality just happened to mesh. (WIAC, p.76-77)
Because the objection is stated in just four sentences, it is less than clear what the premises of this argument assert.
What, for example, does Craig mean by “creatures…who correspond to the abstractly existing realm of moral values”? What specifically does he mean by the closely related phrase “two entirely independent orders of reality…mesh”? Before we can evaluate Craig’s objection, we need to be clear about the nature of the alleged “coincidence” to which he is pointing, but his vague and skimpy characterization of this “coincidence” makes it difficult to identify the basic premise or assumption of his argument.
I can only make some educated guesses at what “coincidence” Craig has in mind here:
A. Human beings naturally evolved with free will, and thus were moral agents who are potentially subject to moral duties and obligations.
B. Human beings naturally evolved to have minds that are capable of discovering and understanding objective moral truths.
C. Human beings naturally evolved to have a moral conscience, to have a significant degree of motivation to act in accordance with objective moral duties and obligations.
I suppose Craig might have all three of these points in mind, given that objective moral values would have significance for humans only if all three of these conditions were met: humans have free will; humans are able to discover moral truths; humans have some inclination to act in accordance with objective moral values.
If these are the sort of things that Craig had in mind, then the issue is: Why would the natural process of evolution bring about all three of these necessary conditions for morality to be of significance in human lives? A perfectly good creator would have reason to bring about the existence of creatures that satisfied these conditions, for the very purpose of having creatures for which morality and immorality were real possibilities. But the random and blind forces of evolution would seem to have no such guiding purposes. Natural selection merely favors characteristics that help a species to be good at surviving and passing their DNA to the next generation; good and evil, and right and wrong, have no role to play in such a random, natural process.
One response to this objection that comes to mind, is to try to show that these three aspects of humans have some significant survival value, that they help humans to survive and reproduce more often than if we lacked these three characteristics. For example, altruistic actions, where an individual creature is motivated to put its own life at risk in order to protect its young or the young of its group from a predator, seem to have survival value, in terms of passing on DNA to future generations.
If the sacrifice of one adult in a herd or group preserves the lives of some of the young of that group from being killed by a predator, then that may be a successful strategy for the survival of that species, including passing on the DNA which in turn preserves the tendency of adults to engage in such altruistic behavior. Thus, altruism, an important tendency or motivation that makes morally good behavior a real possibility, can be given an evolutionary explanation.
Let’s suppose that human free will and the capacity of human minds to grasp objective moral truths can also be given a plausible evolutionary explanation. If such explanations were available or became available, would that be sufficient to silence Craig’s third objection to AMR?
I have a feeling that some Christian apologists and philosophers would respond to such evolutionary explanations for the origin of morality in humans along the lines of Richard Swinburne’s divine providence argument. If evolution does provide a good explanation for the origin of morality among humans, then this points back to the existence of God, for a highly intelligent designer would be required to explain how just the right amount and kinds of physical matter and energy and natural laws were present at the start of this universe to make it likely that creatures who were fully capable of being morally good and morally bad arose out of purely random natural processes.
But then, to move to that view of evolution, a view put forward by Swinburne in his case for God, would be, I think, to discard the argument from “coincidence” presented by Craig.

bookmark_borderAtheistic Moral Realism – Part 7

Richard Taylor’s book Virtue Ethics: An Introduction (formerly published as Ethics, Faith, and Reason) provides a very readable and interesting defense of the view that the modern conception of morality originates with religion, especially with Christianity.
William Craig quotes from Chapter 11 of this book as his primary support for his second objection to AMR. So, in order to evaluate Craig’s second objection, we need to evaluate Taylor’s argument(s) for the claim that duties are always owed to some person or persons.
Before I examine Taylor’s reasoning, I want to mention a general concern. Part of the appeal of Taylor’s view, at least for skeptics and atheists, is something like the genetic fallacy:
1. The modern conception of morality originates with religion, esp. with Christianity.
2. Religion in general and Christianity in particular are anti-humanistic and mistaken viewpoints.
Therefore:
3. The modern conception of morality is anti-humanistic and mistaken.

I don’t think that Taylor presents such an obviously fallacious argument, but I suspect that his readers, especially his readers who are atheists and skeptics concerning religious belief, may be tempted to reason along these lines. The problem with this argument is that false, mistaken, and harmful ideas can sometimes give rise to true, correct, and helpful ideas.
The historical origins of an idea do NOT determine its truth nor its usefulness. But an unstated assumption of the above argument is that EVERY idea that has its historical origin in religion or in Christianity suffers from EVERY defect or problem with religion or Christianity. There are obviously many exeptions to such a broad generalization. So, this argument makes the conclusion only somewhat probable, at best (once the generalization is qualified to something more reasonable).
One counterexample to the false unstated generalization is the saying of Jesus that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” This seems pretty clearly an early hint of humanism. The idea is that ethics or morality serves human needs and/or purposes. It may well be the case that many Christian ideas and beliefs are anti-humanistic, but in this particular case Jesus taught something that looks a lot like a humanistic conception of ethics.
One reason given by Taylor involves an appeal to etymology. Whenever I read an appeal to etymology in support of a conceptual claim, alarm bells ring in my head, and red flags begin to wave. Etymology is a dubious way to support a conceptual claim.
Etymology is a worthwhile approach to asking questions. For example, ‘philosophy’ comes from root words meaning LOVE of WISDOM. So, one can ask ‘What is wisdom?’ and ‘What is the love of wisdom?’ and ‘Is philosophy the love of wisdom?’ But it would be foolish and simple-minded to immediately draw the conclusion that “Philosophy is the love of wisdom, because the word ‘philosophy’ comes from root words that mean ‘love of wisdom’.” If only it were that easy to analyze the meanings of important concepts. If it were really that easy, there would be no need for philosophy!
Etymology is a dubious basis for conceptual claims because words change meaning over time. For example, the word ‘let’ in the King James version of the Bible sometimes means ‘hindered’ (see Romans 1:13), but it means ‘allowed’ in modern English. Since the meanings of words change over time, it is clear that etymology can, at least in some cases, be misleading and fail to point to the correct (current) meaning of a word.
Also, etymology tends to be speculative. Nobody documents the creation of a new word (at the time the new word is coined) with notes about why the particular root words were selected to form the new word (‘agnosticsim’ being a rare exception). Thus, somebody has to guess at how and why the root word or words came to be used as the basis for a new word in the English language, usually hudreds of years after the word entered the language. Some such guesses may be plausible and well-educated guesses that can be rationally defended. But, such explanatory claims about the historical origins of a word are inherently questionable and not subject to firm proof, as we shall soon see in the case at hand.
Taylor gives one argument on the basis of the etymology of the word ‘obligation’ :
…to be obligated is, literally, to be bound. …one can have no obligation just as such; it must, again, be an obligation to some person or persons, for the idea of being bound or tied, yet bound to no one or no thing, is without meaning.
(Virtue Ethics, Chapter 11)
There are at least three problems with this reasoning.  First, Taylor is using etymology as the basis for a conceptual claim, which is a dubious and weak sort of argument.   This is NOT a solid argument, even if there are no other problems or issues with it.
Second, obligations can have more than one sort of object.  If I promise to take care of my friend’s child while he is out of town, then I have an obligation to my friend (the person to whom I made the promise) but I also have an obligation to the child (the person whom I promised to care for and whose interests are most at stake in the question of whether I keep my promise or break it).  So, if an obligation requires being bound to someone, it could require being bound to the child in this case, rather than to the person to whom I made the promise.  
Taylor is assuming that the ‘binding’ meant was to  a person with whom a negotiation or agreement was made, but it could be that the ‘binding’ was a reference to the object of the obligation (the child in this case). If this is how ‘binding’ is involved, then we can conlude that ‘binding’ does NOT necessarily refer to binding to a person, because one can promise to take care of a cat or a garden, and a cat is NOT a person. Taylor’s speculation about the relationship of the concept of ‘binding’ to the concept of ‘obligation’ might be correct, but there are other possible explanations available.
Third, Taylor himself admits the obvious, which is that a person can be bound to a thing, to a tree or to a post. A tree is NOT a person. Thus, Taylor says that the idea of being “bound to no one or no thing, is without meaning.” We could grant this assumption, and yet nothing follows about ‘binding’ requiring that an obligation always involves one person being bound to another person. Thus, even if we assume that the concept of ‘binding to something’ is part of the meaning of ‘obligation’ it could be the case that ‘obligation’ implies that the person with the obligation is bound to some thing rather than to some person.
Taylor gives a similar argument about the meaning of the concept of ‘duty’:
A duty is something that is owed, something due, … .  But something can be owed only to some person or persons.  There can be no such thing as a duty in isolation, that is, something that is owed but owed to no person or persons. 
(Virtue Ethics, Chapter 11, from the section on ‘The Relational Character of Ethical Terms’)
As with the previous argument about ‘obligation’, this is a weak argument, at best, because Taylor is making a conceptual claim based upon the etymology of the word ‘duty’.
Because a duty, like an obligation, can be ‘to’ or ‘for’ someone in more than one way (my promise to take care of my friend’s child involves a duty to my friend and a duty to the child) it is not clear which sort of object of a duty is in view in terms of who or what is ‘owed’ the action. If in this case I owe it to the child to care for the child, then that sort of object of a duty need NOT be a person, since I can also promise to care for a cat or for a garden.
Thirdly, the words ‘owed’ and ‘due’ are not used exclusively of relations to persons:
You owe it to yourself to see this movie.
I owe my love of classical music to my dearly departed grandmother.
We are due for a big earthquake in the next ten years.
The recent string of hot days in spring may be due to global warming.
These may not be central or the most common uses of the words ‘owe’ and ‘due’, but these uses of these words shows that their meanings can be stretched beyond the confines of ‘person X owes Y to person Z’. Since the root words upon which the term ‘duty’ is based can be used in ways that do not require a relationship between persons, this suggests that the term ‘duty’ might also not be strictly limited to situations where
‘Person A has a duty B towards a person C’. If ‘owed’ and ‘due’ do not necessariy imply a relation between two or more persons, then the word ‘duty’ might not necessarily imply such a relation either.
To be continued…

bookmark_borderAtheistic Moral Realism – Part 6

Some internet resources about  William Craig’s views on morality and Richard Taylor’s views on morality:
Is The Basis Of Morality Natural Or Supernatural?
A Debate Between Richard Taylor and William Lane Craig
Union College, Schenectady, New York
October 8, 1993
http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/craig-taylor0.html
The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality
By Dr. William Lane Craig
http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/meta-eth.html
Is The Foundation Of Morality Natural Or Supernatural?
William Lane Craig vs. Sam Harris
Universityof NotreDame, Notre Dame, Indiana, United States– April 2011
http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-the-foundation-of-morality-natural-or-supernatural-the-craig-harris
Book Review of Richard Taylor’s book Good and Evil
By H. Benjamin Shaeffer
HumboldtStateUniversity
http://commons.pacificu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1071&context=eip
Virtue Ethics: An Introduction
(originally published under the title: Ethics, Faith, and Reason)
Prometheus Books, 2002
By Richard Taylor
Available at Google books (preview of first 25 pages):
http://books.google.com/books/about/Virtue_Ethics.html?id=FnTJ8p2YhWAC
Irrefutable Ethics
Article in Philosophy Now
By Richard Taylor
http://philosophynow.org/issues/43/Irrefutable_Ethics
Interview of Richard Taylor
in Philosophy Now
 http://philosophynow.org/issues/40/Richard_Taylor
The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life
By William James
An address to the Yale Philosophical Club, published in the International Journal of Ethics, April 1891. (a major influence on Richard Taylor’s views about morality)
http://www.philosophy.uncc.edu/mleldrid/American/mp&ml.htm
On the Basis of Morality
By Arthur Schopenhauer
(a major influence on Richard Taylor’s views about morality)
Available on Google Books:
http://books.google.com/books/about/On_the_basis_of_morality.html?id=ye8wNs2kELYC
Richard Taylor Remembered
Philosophy Now
http://philosophynow.org/issues/44/Richard_Taylor_Remembered
 

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