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Debates about the metaphysical compatibility between miracles and natural laws often appear to prejudge the issue by either adopting or rejecting a strong physicalist thesis (the idea that the physical is all that exists). The operative component of physicalism is a causal closure principle: that every caused event is a physically caused event. If physicalism and this strong causal closure principle are accepted, then supernatural interventions are ruled out tout court, while rejecting physicalism gives miracles metaphysical carte blanche. This paper argues for a more moderate version of physicalism that respects important physicalist intuitions about causal closure while allowing for miracles' logical possibility. A recent proposal for a specific mechanism for the production of miracles (Larmer (1996d)) is criticized and rejected. In its place, two separate mechanisms (suitable for deterministic and indeterministic worlds, respectively) are proposed that do conform to a more moderate physicalism, and their potential and limitations are explored.
In his paper ‘Miracles: metaphysics, physics, and physicalism’,1 Kirk McDermid appears to have two primary goals. The first is to demonstrate that my account of how God might produce a miracle without violating any laws of nature is radically flawed. The second is to suggest two alternative accounts, one suitable for a deterministic world, one suitable for an indeterministic world, which allow for the occurrence of a miracle without violation of the laws of nature, yet do not suffer from the defects of what McDermid terms the ‘Larmerian’ model. I briefly describe my model, reply to McDermid's criticism of it, and evaluate his alternative accounts.
The metaphysics of miracles put forward in my article, ‘Miracles: metaphysics, physics and physicalism’, above (125–147) are, argues Robert Larmer, both unnecessary and unworkable. Here, I try more clearly to explain that my goal of saving important physicalist intuitions that are incompatible with both the ‘open-systems’ and ‘exemption’ approaches’ use of powerful ceteris paribus clauses. I also defend the two mechanisms proposed in the paper from Larmer's criticisms.
I argue that the free-will defence need not presuppose a libertarian conception of freedom and therefore need not beg the question against compatibilists. I present three versions of theological determinism, each of which is inconsistent with freedom on compatibilist-friendly principles, and then argue that what generates the inconsistency – viz, that (1) God intentionally necessitates all human actions, and (2) no human has it within her power to influence causally God's will – is entailed by any version of theological determinism. Contrary to widespread opinion, therefore, the viability of the free-will defence does not depend upon the viability of libertarianism per se but on the falsity of theological determinism.
David Silver has argued that there is an illegitimate circularity in Plantinga's account of how a Christian theist can defend herself against the potential defeater presented by Paul Draper's formulation of the problem of evil. The way out of the circle for the theist, thinks Silver, would be by adopting a kind of evidentialism: she needs to make an appeal to evidence that is independent of the reasons she has for holding theistic belief in the first place. I shall argue that Silver's argument is unsuccessful, mainly because he does not get Plantinga's thought right. Silver's confusion is in taking causes of belief as reasons for belief, and in failing to account for the impact of belief holism and our web of beliefs on the very hope for independent reasons.
In an earlier paper I argued that Alvin Plantinga's defence of pure experiential theism (a theism epistemically based on religious experience) against the evidential problem of evil is inappropriately circular. Eric Snider rejects my argument claiming first that I do not get Plantinga's thought right. Second, he rejects a key principle my argument relies on, viz. the ‘independence constraint on neutralizers’. Finally, he offers an alternative to the independence constraint which allows the pure experiential theist to deal successfully with the evidential problem of evil. In this paper I argue that: (a) I have correctly characterized Plantinga's argument; and (b) that Snider's proposed counter-example to the independence constraint fails. Finally, I argue (c) that Snider's proposed alternative to the independence constraint is not a plausible epistemic principle.
The penultimate chapter of Alvin Plantinga's Warrant and Proper Function attacks metaphysical naturalism through an argument which concludes that only a supernaturalistic worldview can accommodate the indispensable concept of proper function. I make the case that this argument, which I dub ‘the argument from proper function’, suffers from two major flaws. First, it underestimates the naturalist's ability to ground natural proper function ascriptions in the concept of health. Second, it relies upon an overly stringent standard for successful conceptual analysis; ironically, the naturalist can undercut the argument by adopting Plantinga's own recommended model for analysing concepts.
The goal of this paper is to facilitate ongoing dialogue between open and non-open theists. First, I try to make precise what open theism is by distinguishing the core commitments of the position from other secondary and optional commitments. The result is a characterization of ‘generic open theism’, the minimal set of commitments that any open theist, qua open theist, must affirm. Second, within the framework of generic open theism, I distinguish three important variants and discuss challenges distinctive to each. The significance of this approach is that it helps avoid conflating arguments bearing on specific versions of open theism with arguments pertaining to open theism simpliciter.