Philosophy Philosophy of Religion
by
Jonathan L. Kvanvig
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0103

Introduction

The philosophy of religion became a recognizable subdiscipline in philosophy in the mid- to late 20th century, together with other notable subdisciplines such as the philosophy of science and the philosophy of language. Work in the philosophy of religion has always been present in the history of philosophy, but prior to the 20th century, it tended to be embedded in larger philosophical projects. By the mid-20th century, however, the process of specialization in philosophy led to an identifiable subfield with identifiable specialists in the area. This subfield can be roughly characterized in terms of its epistemological and metaphysical aspects. On the epistemological side are the various attempts to demonstrate or prove God’s existence (e.g., the classic ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments) or nonexistence (e.g., the problem of evil) and the discussions of what is required for an adequate demonstration or proof, and there are further discussions of whether a proof or demonstration is needed in order for belief in God to be rational or justified. Included in the latter area is the large question of the degree to which one’s intellectual life ought to be guided by purely truth-related concerns or whether pragmatic concerns are legitimate factors in determining not only how to act but also what to think. On the metaphysical side are controversies about a proper conception of the nature of God, both about specific characteristics of God such as omnipotence, omniscience, simplicity, eternity, and moral perfection, and also about what general approach to the issue of the nature of God is appropriate (e.g., whether a process conception is preferable to a perfect being conception). There is also the question of God’s relationship to the world, both in terms of creation and providential control, and the related issue of whether miracles are possible and whether it is ever reasonable to believe that one has occurred. Finally, there is the further question of the significance of religious language itself, whether sense can be made of talking about a being and realms of reality that are difficult to account for in terms of empirical acquaintance and, if so, exactly what precise account can be given of the content of such language.

General Overviews

General overviews of the subject are available in the various high-quality encyclopedias of philosophy that have been published since the late 1990s. These include the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, containing Clark 2009, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, containing Forrest 2009 and Taliaferro 2007, and the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, containing Stump 1998.

  • Clark, Kelly. “Religious Epistemology.” In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden. 2009.

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    A lucid summary of the evidentialist objection to religious belief and the primary responses on behalf of religious belief: natural theology and the attempt to demonstrate the truth of various religious beliefs, the fideistic response that views the demand for justification as ill-formed, and reformed epistemology defending the idea that belief in God can be rational apart from argument or evidence.

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    • Forrest, Peter. “The Epistemology of Religion.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2009.

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      Devoted to the epistemological issues, especially the debate between evidentialists, who maintain that one cannot rationally believe in the absence of good evidence or arguments for what one believes, and alternative positions such as Wittgensteinian fideism, according to which criticisms from outside a language game misunderstand the logic, grammar, or justification, and reformed epistemology, according to which certain beliefs can be properly held in the absence of argument or evidence.

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      • Stump, Eleonore. “Religion, Philosophy of.” In the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward Craig. London: Routledge, 1998.

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        A general introduction to the variety of issues and topics involved in the philosophy of religion, by one of the major philosophers in the philosophy of religion since 1960. Available online by subscription.

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        • Taliaferro, Charles. “Philosophy of Religion.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2007.

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          An introduction to the philosophy of religion containing unusually extensive discussion of the history of the subdiscipline as well as an extensive and useful bibliography.

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          Textbooks

          The number and variety of textbooks in the philosophy of religion are enormous, and listed here are some popular and competent examples. There are two types of textbooks covering the philosophy of religion: one type being an anthology of historical or contemporary primary source material on a set of topics chosen by the editor or editors and the other type being written by the author or authors of the textbook on the set of topics deemed most important. In the second category one can include Davies 2000, Peterson, et al. 2008, and Rowe 2006. Peterson, et al. 2006 and Stump and Murray 1999 fall in the first category. The differences between textbooks emerge primarily through the choice of topics deemed important, ranging from a more basic set of topics, such as may be found in Davies 2004, to more expanded foci including non-Western religions and the problems of religious diversity as well as the relevance of gender and ethnicity on the issues within the philosophy of religion.

          • Davies, Brian, ed. Philosophy of Religion: A Guide and Anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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            A collection of readings in the philosophy of religion, divided in a way that mirrors quite closely the chapter divisions in Davies 2004. The anthology also contains useful introductions and advice on further reading by the editor.

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            • Davies, Brian. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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              A standard introductory text including chapters on concepts of God, philosophy and religious belief, arguments for the existence of God (cosmological, design, and ontological), experience and God, talking about God, God and evil, miracles, morality and religion, life after death, and two chapters on divine attributes. One of these chapters is on omnipotence and omniscience, and a unique feature of this textbook is a chapter devoted to the doctrine of divine simplicity.

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              • Peterson, Michael, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, and David Basinger, eds. Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings. 3d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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                A collection of readings following the organizational structure of the companion text Peterson 2008, with primarily standard readings, but also displaying an effort at being more inclusive toward both those outside the Judeo-Christian perspective, such as Islamic and Eastern thought, and also toward less conservative thought within the Judeo-Christian perspective, such as liberal theologians and feminist perspectives.

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                • Peterson, Michael, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, and David Basinger. Reason and Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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                  A general introductory textbook that is clearly written and accessible to students, including a number of chapters and topics that go beyond Davies 2004. The range of arguments for the existence of God is more extensive, and there are chapters on whether arguments for God’s existence are needed for rational belief, as well as chapters on the relationship between religion and science and on the problem of religious diversity.

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                  • Rowe, William. Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction. 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2006.

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                    This text covers a standard range of topics, including chapters on the concept of God, various arguments for the existence of God, religious experience and faith and reason, miracles, the problem of evil, and the freedom/foreknowledge problem. It also includes a chapter on the problem of religious diversity and on nontheistic religious alternatives, as well as a full chapter devoted to Freudian accounts of religion.

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                    • Stump, Eleonore, and Michael J. Murray, eds. Philosophy of Religion: The Big Questions. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1999.

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                      This collection of readings focuses on the characteristics of God, arguments for the existence of God, the problem of evil, the relation between faith and reason, and the relationship between morality and religion. Distinctive emphases involve a section on how differences of religious perspective, gender, and ethnicity relate to our thinking about religion, and a section on various aspects of religious practice, such as the topics of petitionary prayer and revelation.

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                      Anthologies

                      In addition to anthologies used as textbooks, there are a number of anthologies published for research purposes and also useful for graduate courses in the philosophy of religion. Some of these anthologies are fully general in scope, whereas others are limited to particular subfields within the philosophy of religion. Among the general anthologies available, Blackwell has commissioned a general project in many areas of philosophy to provide useful collections through its Companion, Guide, and Contemporary Debates series, and within the philosophy of religion these series are represented well by Quinn and Taliaferro 1997, Mann 2004, and Peterson and Vanarragon 2003. In the same genre as the Blackwell Guide series is the Oxford Handbook series, represented in the philosophy of religion by Wainwright 2005. Other anthologies focus more on original research by central figures on current issues in the philosophy of religion, and these include Kvanvig 2008 and Nagasawa and Wielenberg 2008.

                      • Kvanvig, Jonathan, ed. Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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                        The first volume in a periodic series, each volume of which features original work by leading figures in the philosophy of religion. Authors in this volume include Alicia Finch and Michael Rea, John Martin Fischer, Bryan Frances, Alan Hájek, Robert Koons, Timothy O’Connor, Alexander R. Pruss, Thomas D. Senor, Eleonore Stump, Peter van Inwagen, and Linda Zagzebski.

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                        • Mann, William E., ed. The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Religion. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.

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                          A collection of original articles organized into sections on the concept of God, the existence of God, religious belief, and religion and life. Each entry is by a leading figure in the philosophy of religion, and articles are written at a level accessible to upper-division undergraduates.

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                          • Nagasawa, Yujin, and Erik Wielenberg, eds. New Waves in Philosophy of Religion. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

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                            One of the “New Waves” collections (others have appeared in epistemology and metaphysics as well as in other areas of philosophy), including articles by Daniel J. Hill, Klaas J. Kraay, T. J. Mawson, Alexander R. Pruss, Neil A. Manson, David Efird, Christian B. Miller, Daniel Howard-Snyder, Tim Bayne and Greg Restall, Christopher J. Eberle, and Thaddeus Metz.

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                            • Peterson, Michael, and Raymond Vanarragon, eds. Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.

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                              The first section includes debates focusing on attacks on religious belief, the second section on defenses of religious belief, and the third on various issues within religion (whether one religion can be true, whether the open theist conception of providence is defensible, whether the idea of petitionary prayer is coherent, the problem of hell, the relation between morality and religion, whether mind–body dualism is central to Christianity).

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                              • Quinn, Philip, and Charles Taliaferro, eds. A Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1997.

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                                A collection of short entries by leading figures in the field covering the entire range of topics and issues in the philosophy of religion, accessible to beginning students of philosophy.

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                                • Wainwright, William, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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                                  A collection of original essays by major philosophers of religion on a variety of standard topics within the philosophy of religion. Articles are written at a level accessible to advanced undergraduate students in philosophy.

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                                  Philosophical Theology

                                  One of the central areas within the philosophy of religion is philosophical theology, and several anthologies are available covering this subfield. Several of these are aimed at providing a general acquaintance with the range of issues in the area, including Flint and Rea 2009 as well as the more topically restricted Rea 2009a and Rea 2009b, and Fischer 1989, which focuses on the problem of how God’s foreknowledge is compatible with human freedom. Original research is also available in Stump 1993.

                                  • Fischer, John Martin, ed. God, Freedom, and Foreknowledge. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989.

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                                    A collection of articles on the freedom/foreknowledge problem. Authors include Marilyn McCord Adams, William P. Alston, Martin Davies, John Martin Fischer, Alfred J. Freddoso, William Hasker, Joshua Hoffman, Nelson Pike, Alvin Plantinga, Gary Rosenkrantz, David Widerker, and Eddy Zemach.

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                                    • Flint, Thomas, and Michael Rea, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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                                      Topics cover primarily those within Christianity, but the collection includes a final section on non-Christian perspectives, with articles on Jewish, Islamic, and Buddhist philosophical theology.

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                                      • Rea, Michael, ed. Oxford Readings in Philosophical Theology. Vol. 1, Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009a.

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                                        A collection reprinting some of the best articles on these three primarily Christian topics over the past several decades. Authors include J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Peter Forrest, Peter van Inwagen, Brian Leftow, Richard Cross, Jeffrey E. Brower and Michael C. Rea, Craig A. Evans, Stephen T. Davis, Daniel Howard-Snyder, Thomas V. Morris, Marilyn McCord Adams, Eleonore Stump, Richard Swinburne, David Lewis, Steven L. Porter, and Philip L. Quinn.

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                                        • Rea, Michael, ed. Oxford Readings in Philosophical Theology. Vol. 2, Providence, Scripture, and Resurrection. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009b.

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                                          A second volume addressing three further topics, again reprinting some of the best articles on these topics from the past several decades. Authors include Thomas P. Flint, Timothy O’Connor, William Lane Craig, David P. Hunt, Peter van Inwagen, Richard Swinburne, William J. Abraham, James A. Keller, Albert C. Sundberg, Jr., Nicholas Woltersdorff, Eleonore Stump, Alvin Plantinga, Evan Fales, Dean W. Zimmerman, Lynne Rudder Baker, and Trenton Merricks.

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                                          • Stump, Eleonore, ed. Reasoned Faith: Essays in Philosophical Theology in Honor of Norman Kretzmann. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993.

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                                            Contains articles by Robert Merrihew Adams, Scott MacDonald, Robert Audi, Peter van Inwagen, Harry G. Frankfurt, William P. Alston, George I. Mavrodes, Richard Swinburne, William Rowe, Thomas V. Morris, William E. Mann, Philip L. Quinn, Marilyn McCord Adams, and Eleonore Stump.

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                                            Religious Epistemology

                                            The epistemological issues within the philosophy of religion burgeoned into a recognizable subfield with the rise of reformed epistemology in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a movement within epistemology led by major figures such as Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and William Alston, investigating a perspective on rational belief and knowledge inspired by the theological tradition deriving from the Protestant Reformation figure John Calvin. Early work in this area is represented in Plantinga and Wolterstorff 1983 and in Audi and Wainwright 1987, whereas Zagzebski 1993 contains critical responses to this movement by philosophers more sympathetic to the project of natural theology within the Catholic tradition.

                                            • Audi, Robert, and William J. Wainwright, eds. Rationality, Religious Belief, and Moral Commitment. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987.

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                                              A collection of papers primarily on religious epistemology from a conference at the University of Nebraska in 1985. Authors include Nelson Pike, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Kenneth Konyndyk, Alvin Plantinga, Robert Audi, Robert Merrihew Adams, Philip L. Quinn, George I. Mavrodes, William L. Rowe, Marilyn McCord Adams, Ralph McInerny, William J. Wainwright, and James F. Ross.

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                                              • Plantinga, Alvin, and Nicholas Wolterstorff, eds. Faith and Rationality. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983.

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                                                The best source for the original work on reformed epistemology, an epistemological perspective deriving from the reformed branch of the Protestant Reformation led by John Calvin. Authors include Alvin Plantinga, George Mavrodes, William P. Alston, Nicholas Wolterstorff, George Marsden, and David Holwerda.

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                                                • Zagzebski, Linda, ed. Rational Faith: Catholic Responses to Reformed Epistemology. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 1993.

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                                                  A collection of papers from a Catholic perspective prompted by the popularity of reformed epistemology deriving from the theological perspective of John Calvin.

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                                                  Problem of Evil

                                                  As central to the area of philosophy of religion as any subfield, the area covering the problem of evil has produced quite a large number of useful anthologies devoted to the problem. Adams and Adams 1991 reprints many of the classic articles up to the time of its publication, and Howard-Snyder 1996 focuses on a particular version of the problem of evil that has become central since arguments by Plantinga beginning in the 1960s convinced most philosophers that only the evidential version of the problem retained any probative value against theistic belief. In the 1990s a further special version of the problem of evil became a central issue of dispute, the problem of divine hiddenness, prompted primarily by John Schellenberg’s Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason (Schellenberg 1993; see Books), and Howard-Snyder and Moser 2002 collects a number of original essays on this version of the problem of evil.

                                                  • Adams, Marilyn McCord, and Robert M. Adams, eds. The Problem of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

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                                                    Contains reprints of some of the classic articles on the problem of evil up to the time of publication. Authors include J. L. Mackie, Nelson Pike, Roderick M. Chisholm, Terence Penelhum, Alvin Plantinga, Robert Merrihew Adams, William L. Rowe, Stephen J. Wykstra, John Hick, Diogenes Allen, and Marilyn McCord Adams.

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                                                    • Howard-Snyder, Daniel, ed. The Evidential Argument from Evil. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996.

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                                                      This volume reprints some of the best articles on the argument deriving from evil that focuses on the way in which evil is evidence against the existence of God, though not evidence that entails the nonexistence of God. Authors include William L. Rowe, Paul Draper, Richard Swinburne, Eleonore Stump, Alvin Plantinga, William P. Alston, Stephen John Wykstra, Peter van Inwagen, Bruce Russell, Richard M. Gale, Alvin Plantinga, and Daniel Howard-Snyder.

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                                                      • Howard-Snyder, Daniel, and Paul Moser, eds. Divine Hiddenness: New Essays. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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                                                        A collection of original essays on the problem of divine hiddenness, which can be conceived either as a special version of the problem of evil (how could a loving God fail to make his existence obvious to all?) or as a special problem in religious epistemology (as a putative defense of the idea that nontheism is a rational position for many). Authors include Peter van Inwagen, John L. Schellenberg, Michael J. Murray, Laura L. Garcia, William J. Wainwright, Paul K. Moser, Jonathan L. Kvanvig, M. Jamie Ferreira, Jacob Joshua Ross, Paul Draper, and Nicholas Wolterstorff.

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                                                        Reference Works

                                                        The Internet contains voluminous content on the philosophy of religion, a large percentage of which has little credibility or substantive value. Among the exceptions are the sites described here. The Prosblogion: A Philosophy of Religion is a philosophy of religion blog that has generally high-quality posts and discussion in the philosophy of religion. PhilPapers: Online Research in Philosophy is a compilation of online material in philosophy and has a special subsection on the philosophy of religion. EpistemeLinks contains a topically organized subsection devoted to the philosophy of religion and with links to high-quality content elsewhere on the Web on each of the topics. The International Philosophy of Religion Association maintains a website with information and announcements from most of the central philosophy of religion organizations worldwide.

                                                        • EpistemeLinks.

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                                                          A useful and topically organized website devoted to various topics within the philosophy of religion, linking to other useful pages on those topics.

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                                                          • The International Philosophy of Religion Association.

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                                                            Includes as members the Australasian Philosophy of Religion Association, Austrian Society of Philosophy of Religion, British Society for the Philosophy of Religion, European Society for Philosophy of Religion, Evangelical Philosophical Society, German Society for Philosophy of Religion, Nordic Society for Philosophy of Religion, Society of Christian Philosophers, and the Society for Continental Philosophy and Theology. The association webpage contains announcements about upcoming conferences and other information of interest to those interested in the philosophy of religion.

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                                                            • PhilPapers: Online Research in Philosophy.

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                                                              A subsection of the initiative by David Chalmers of Australian National University to organize online material in philosophy. There is no attempt to impose any quality standards on inclusion, but a generally good source of online material and often before the work is available in standard print format.

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                                                              • The Prosblogion: A Philosophy of Religion.

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                                                                One of a number of specialty blogs in philosophy, administered by Matthew Mullins, currently a graduate student in philosophy at Northwestern University. The contributors to the blog range from graduate students in philosophy to active researchers in the field, and the quality of entries is typically quite good, with follow-up discussion typical of weblogs, including both the uninformed and low-quality as well as the penetrating and insightful.

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                                                                Journals/Serials

                                                                There are a number of journals focusing either exclusively or in large part on the philosophy of religion. Those with the longest track record of quality publications include Religious Studies, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, and Faith and Philosophy, while newer entries include the European Journal for Philosophy of Religion, along with the book series Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion (Kvanvig 2008 . Ars Disputandi: The Online Journal for Philosophy of Religion is the first online journal in the area, whereas Philo has a more specialized focus on the philosophical prospects of naturalism and Sophia: International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Metaphysical Theology and Ethics a broader cross-cultural focus, including Eastern and well as Western philosophical and religious perspectives.

                                                                Problem of Evil

                                                                Among topics within the philosophy of religion, none is more central or important than the problem of evil. Discussion of the problem of evil generally follows Plantinga 1974 in dividing the problem into a logical and an evidential version, with the logical problem understood to involve a deductive inference from the existence of evil to the nonexistence of God (as can be found in Mackie 1982), while the evidential version involves an inductive or ampliative inference. A different approach to categorizing different versions of the problem of evil may be uncovered in van Inwagen 2006, distinguishing between general versions of the problem addressed by historically important responses to the problem of evil, such as the greater good defense (arguing that evil is necessary for some greater goods, as in Hick 1966) or the free will defense (arguing that the value of freedom explains why suffering is present, such as is contained in Plantinga 1974, Lewis 1957, and Hartshorne 1962), and particular versions of the problem, including the problem of horrendous evil (see Adams 1999) and that of divine hiddenness (see Schellenberg 1993). (For textbooks that deal with this subject, see Anthologies: Problem of Evil.)

                                                                Books

                                                                Books devoted to the problem of evil fall into two categories. Some focus on the general problem of evil, and central to this approach is the dispute between Mackie 1982 and Plantinga 1974 on the deductive version of the problem of evil. Falling into this category as well are various attempts to provide an explanation for the existence of evil in terms of free will, some greater good, or the need for soul-making, and attempts of this sort may be found in Lewis 1957, Hartshorne 1962, Hick 1966, and parts of van Inwagen 2006. Other works focus on particular kinds of evil, whether horrendous evils, as in Adams 1999, or the version of the problem arising because of the fact that not everyone finds the existence of God obvious (see Schellenberg 1993). Another particular version of the problem is animal suffering, addressed in van Inwagen 2006 together with other particular problems such as divine hiddenness and horrendous evil.

                                                                • Adams, Marilyn McCord. Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999.

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                                                                  A work focusing on the special difficulties raised for theistic belief by the fact that our world contains not only pain and suffering, but also truly horrendous pain and suffering, so that even if some responses to the problem of evil might work for certain kinds of evil, special solutions are needed for responding adequately to horrendous evils, including an endorsement of universalism, the doctrine according to which hell is ultimately unpopulated.

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                                                                  • Hartshorne, Charles. The Logic of Perfection. La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1962.

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                                                                    Defends a process conception of God that places various limitations on God’s power and knowledge, undermining standard formulations of the problem of evil that depend on unlimited knowledge and power, a conception that has been quite influential in theological circles, by the most influential and accomplished process philosopher of the 20th century.

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                                                                    • Hick, John. Evil and the God of Love. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.

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                                                                      This work presents Hick’s defense of a soul-making theodicy, developed from a theological perspective derived from Iraneaus rather than Augustine, focusing on the undeveloped, rather than fallen, nature of human beings.

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                                                                      • Lewis, C. S. The Problem of Pain. London: Fontana, 1957.

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                                                                        A widely read and enormously influential popular-level treatment of the problem of evil.

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                                                                        • Mackie, John L. The Miracle of Theism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

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                                                                          A wide-ranging discussion of many of the central issues in the philosophy of religion, including most of the arguments intending to demonstrate the existence of God, this work also contains a sophisticated presentation of the problem of evil in Chapter 9.

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                                                                          • Plantinga, Alvin. God, Freedom, and Evil. New York: Harper and Row, 1974.

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                                                                            Contains Plantinga’s influential discussion distinguishing the logical from the evidential problem of evil, arguing that the former version of the problem is hopelessly flawed, developing in the process a version of the free will defense that involves a Molinist understanding of divine providence in which claims about what free creatures would do if placed in various circumstances play a central role.

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                                                                            • Schellenberg, John L. Divine Hiddenness and Human Reason. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993.

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                                                                              This work argues that the fact God’s existence is not obvious to everyone is itself a special version of the problem of evil.

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                                                                              • van Inwagen, Peter. The Problem of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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                                                                                Resulting from van Inwagen’s 2003 Gifford Lectures, this work presents various possible responses to the problem of evil together with a skeptical meta-philosophy regarding the status of philosophical arguments in general, employing a version of the free will defense to account for the general problem of evil and the need for regularity in the universe to account for the particular problem of evil arising from animal suffering.

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                                                                                Articles

                                                                                The central articles concerning the problem of evil focus on the deductive or logical version of the problem of evil (see Mackie 1955 for the classic article from this perspective) and the prospects for a weaker, evidential version of the problem. Concerning the latter, Plantinga 1979 argues that no interpretation of probability can sustain the nondeductive version of the problem, whereas Rowe 1979 formulates such a version in terms of the notion of rational belief. Wykstra 1984 responds to Rowe’s argument.

                                                                                • Mackie, John L. “Evil and Omnipotence.” Mind 64 (1955): 200–212.

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                                                                                  The widely reprinted, classic article on the problem of evil by one of the leading atheistic philosophers of religion of the 20th century.

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                                                                                  • Plantinga, Alvin. “The Probabilistic Argument from Evil.” Philosophical Studies 35 (1979): 1–53.

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                                                                                    The canonical account by Plantinga of the various interpretations of probability that might be used to sustain the claim that the existence of evil renders probable the nonexistence of God, arguing that no suitable interpretation of probability exists that could be useful in such an argument.

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                                                                                    • Rowe, William L. “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism.” American Philosophical Quarterly 16 (1979): 335–341.

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                                                                                      The initial source of the literature that followed on the evidential problem of evil, focusing on animal suffering and the way it affects the rationality of belief in God.

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                                                                                      • Wykstra, Stephen J. “The Humean Obstacle to Evidential Arguments from Suffering: On Avoiding the Evils of ‘Appearance.’” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 16 (1984): 73–93.

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                                                                                        A response to Rowe 1979, arguing that legitimate principles of evidence require a distinction between evils that appear to have no point and those that merely fail to appear to have a point.

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                                                                                        The Epistemology of Religion

                                                                                        The issue of the rational status of belief in God arose initially in the Clifford–James exchange in the 19th century, with Clifford 1879 arguing that rational belief requires evidence and James 1956 arguing for the relevance of a broader notion of rationality that included pragmatic elements. This debate is echoed in the literature on the epistemology of religious belief, with Flew 1972 siding with Clifford, and Mitchell 1973 and Alston 1991 siding with James, though in quite different ways. A significant alternative to both Clifford and James is the recent reformed epistemology perspective, as developed in Plantinga 1983 and Wolterstorff 1976, according to which a nonpragmatic notion of rationality is developed that rejects the Cliffordian requirement of understanding rationality in terms of evidence. The issues between these camps are investigated in detail in Plantinga and Tooley 2008.

                                                                                        • Alston, William P. Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                          A defense of the idea that we perceive God and that such perceptions are part of the explanation of how religious beliefs can be justified.

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                                                                                          • Clifford, William Kingdon. Lectures and Essays. Edited by F. Pollock. London: Macmillan, 1879.

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                                                                                            An impassioned defense of the claim that no belief should ever be held in the absence of adequate evidence for it.

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                                                                                            • Flew, Antony. “The Presumption of Atheism.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 2 (1972): 29–46.

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                                                                                              A classic statement of the view that the burden of proof is on the theist to show or argue that there is good evidence for the existence of God.

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                                                                                              • James, William. “The Will to Believe.” In The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy. By William James, 1–31. New York: Dover, 1956.

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                                                                                                Originally published in New World in June 1896, it is a classic in the literature in terms of a response to Clifford 1879.

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                                                                                                • Mitchell, Basil. The Justification of Religious Belief. London: Macmillan, 1973.

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                                                                                                  A defense of the rationality of religious belief that focuses on the need to fully explore and test over time important commitments in morality, politics, and religion.

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                                                                                                  • Plantinga, Alvin. “Reason and Belief in God.” In Faith and Rationality. Edited by Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff, 16–93. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983.

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                                                                                                    One of the seminal papers in the development of reformed epistemology, defending both the reformed objection to natural theology and the idea that belief in God can be properly basic—that is, believed in a way that is fully acceptable from an epistemic point of view and yet not based on any argument for it.

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                                                                                                    • Plantinga, Alvin, and Michael Tooley. Knowledge of God. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1002/9781444301304Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      A debate between a theist and an atheist, containing initial statements of their views plus two sets of replies by each author.

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                                                                                                      • Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Reason within the Bounds of Religion. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976.

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                                                                                                        A seminal work on the relationship between science and religion in particular and more generally on the relationship between reason and religion.

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                                                                                                        Classical Proofs for the Existence of God

                                                                                                        The most common approach in the history of philosophy to the question of whether there is a God is to attempt to find a proof or a disproof of the existence of God. On the negative side are various versions of the problem of evil, and on the positive side are the standard arguments for the existence of God: ontological, cosmological, teleological, and moral. The focus of the literature is on the question of whether any of these attempts are successful, both in terms of logical requirements such as being sound and in terms of nonlogical requirements such as whether they beg the question, are circular, or fail to be persuasive.

                                                                                                        Ontological Arguments

                                                                                                        Ontological arguments attempt to show that some feature of the concept or idea of God requires the exemplification or reality of this concept of idea. The original source of such an argument is St. Anselm’s Proslogion (St. Anselm of Canterbury 1962), and Plantinga 1965 collects a variety of historical sources defending and attacking the prospects for such an argument, while Hartshorne 1965 defends a version of the argument. Oppy 2007 provides a useful overview of the types of ontological arguments and their prospects, going beyond the two arguments that Malcolm 1960 discerns in Anselm’s own writings. Sophisticated and detailed critical assessments of such arguments may be found in Oppy 1995 and Sobel 2004.

                                                                                                        • St. Anselm of Canterbury. “Proslogion.” In St. Anselm: Basic Writings. Edited and translated by Sidney N. Deane, 1–81. Chicago: Open Court, 1962.

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                                                                                                          The original source of ontological arguments for the existence of God.

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                                                                                                          • Hartshorne, Charles. Anselm’s Discovery: A Re-examination of the Ontological Proof for God’s Existence. La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1965.

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                                                                                                            A discussion and endorsement of a version of the ontological argument by one of the most prominent process theologians of the 20th century.

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                                                                                                            • Malcolm, Norman. “Anselm’s Ontological Arguments.” Philosophical Review 69 (1960): 41–62.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/2182266Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              A classic paper distinguishing two different versions of the ontological argument in Anselm’s original work.

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                                                                                                              • Oppy, Graham. Ontological Arguments and Belief in God. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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                                                                                                                Offers a taxonomy of types of ontological arguments, both historical and contemporary, and critically assesses them.

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                                                                                                                • Oppy, Graham. “Ontological Arguments.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2007.

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                                                                                                                  A careful summary of the various types of ontological arguments, including critical assessments of each type. The entry has a useful bibliography as well.

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                                                                                                                  • Plantinga, Alvin, ed. The Ontological Argument from St. Anselm to Contemporary Philosophers. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965.

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                                                                                                                    A useful collection of historical sources concerning the ontological argument, including excerpts from the works of Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Schopenhauer, G. E. Moore, Alston, J. N. Findlay, Hartshorne, and Malcolm.

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                                                                                                                    • Sobel, J. Howard. Logic and Theism: Arguments For and Against Beliefs in God. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                                      Not for the faint-of-heart in terms of formal philosophy, this work is the most detailed and complete source on the logic of the various arguments for the existence of God, including some 139 pages on the ontological argument.

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                                                                                                                      Cosmological Arguments

                                                                                                                      Cosmological arguments arise from the natural curiosity as to why there is something rather than nothing, and attempt to demonstrate the existence of some supernatural being on the basis of some contingent feature of the cosmos associated with this object of curiosity. The contingent feature may be that the universe had a beginning, or that it could have been quite different than it in fact is, or that the universe itself is contingent. Such a feature is then tied to some metaphysical principle in order to infer the existence of a supernatural being, such as principles ruling out an infinite regress of preceding causes or times (Craig 1979) or a principle of sufficient reason requiring an explanation of everything or everything contingent (Rowe 1975). What is controversial is whether any of these arguments succeed in establishing that there is more than just the natural order. Reichenbach 2008 provides an overview that both covers the history of the argument from Aristotle on and categorizes various types of cosmological arguments, and the debate in Craig and Smith 1993 takes a new angle on the argument by connecting it to the current scientific context of big bang cosmology. Mackie 1982 and Rowe 1975 are skeptical of the prospects for cosmological arguments, whereas Craig 1979, O’Connor 2008, and Pruss 2006 offer quite different versions of the argument that they claim are successful.

                                                                                                                      • Craig, William Lane. The Kalām Cosmological Argument. London: Macmillan, 1979.

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                                                                                                                        A defense of one of the major types of cosmological arguments, in terms of the impossibility of an actually infinite temporal regress.

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                                                                                                                        • Craig, William Lane, and Quentin Smith. Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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                                                                                                                          A debate by two prominent philosophers of religion on the idea that big bang cosmology provides evidence for theism.

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                                                                                                                          • Mackie, John L. The Miracle of Theism. Oxford: Clarendon, 1982.

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                                                                                                                            Mackie is arguably the most important philosophical critic of theism in the 20th century, and this work is his major effort in that regard. It evaluates all the major arguments for the existence of God in Mackie’s typical methodical and fair-minded way, always devoting considerable attention to making the argument as strong and persuasive as possible before criticizing it.

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                                                                                                                            • O’Connor, Timothy. Theism and Ultimate Explanation: The Necessary Shape of Contingency. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

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                                                                                                                              A defense of a version of the cosmological argument from contingency, arguing that it is inevitable that God created at least a countable infinity of universes.

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                                                                                                                              • Oppy, Graham. Arguing about Gods. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                A careful investigation of the various arguments for the existence of God, with Chapter 3 covering the large variety of cosmological arguments. The approach is historical, identifying types of cosmological arguments in terms of the details of arguments given by particular philosophers.

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                                                                                                                                • Pruss, Alexander. The Principle of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                  A new defense of the principle of sufficient reason, endorsing a weaker version of it and identifying a version of the cosmological argument that results.

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                                                                                                                                  • Reichenbach, Bruce. “The Cosmological Argument.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2008.

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                                                                                                                                    A comprehensive introduction to the argument, including a historical overview and a typology of types of cosmological arguments. The bibliography is especially valuable.

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                                                                                                                                    • Rowe, William. The Cosmological Argument. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975.

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                                                                                                                                      The first book-length treatment of the version of the cosmological argument depending on the principle of sufficient reason used by Samuel L. Clarke in his version of the argument.

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                                                                                                                                      Teleological Arguments

                                                                                                                                      Teleological arguments arise from some feature of the structure or function of nature and her parts that suggest purpose or design of the sort we associate with mental abilities and intentional action, leading to the conclusion that nature must have been designed by some supernatural, intentional agent. Ratzsch 2005 covers the history and structure of various arguments of this type, and Hume 1990 (originally published in 1779) is the most detailed and careful investigation of the argument in pre-Darwinian thought. The arrival of evolutionary theory in the 19th century had profound implications for the teleological argument, as chronicled in Dawkins 1987 and Manson 2003, one result of which is the contemporary innovations on the argument in terms of fine-tuning, many-universe hypotheses, and the notorious intelligent design movement, regarding which Pennock 2001 is an authoritative source. Leslie 1989 and Swinburne 1979 defend fine-tuning versions of the argument, whereas Sobel 2004 presents a logically and probabilistically dense critique of them.

                                                                                                                                      • Dawkins, Richard. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design. New York: Norton, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                        Dawkin’s celebrated work explaining the power of the theory of evolution to account for the universe without appeal to an intelligent designer and in a way that rules out such a designer.

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                                                                                                                                        • Hume, David. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. New York: Penguin Classics, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                          Originally published posthumously in 1779, a classic source investigating the arguments of natural theology, but showing the most interest in and respect for teleological arguments, in spite of being highly critical of all arguments for the existence of God.

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                                                                                                                                          • Leslie, John. Universes. London and New York: Routledge, 1989.

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                                                                                                                                            This work investigates the fine-tuning evidence of design and the multiple-universe hypotheses.

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                                                                                                                                            • Manson, Neil, ed. God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science. New York: Routledge, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                              Covers a variety of types of teleological arguments, both those derived from biological considerations and those derived from other scientific considerations, including nonbiological features of the cosmos that appear to involve design. Authors include Elliott Sober, John Leslie, Robert O’Connor, Jan Narveson, Richard Swinburne, Del Ratzsch, Paul Davies, William Lane Craig, Robin Collins, Timothy McGrew, Lydia McGrew, Eric Vestrup, Martin Rees, D. H. Mellor, Roger White, William Dembski, Michael Behe, Kenneth R. Miller, Michael Ruse, Simon Conway Morris, and Peter van Inwagen.

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                                                                                                                                              • Pennock, Robert T., ed. Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                An anthology containing many of the most important original sources in the current debate concerning creationism, intelligent design, and evolutionary theory.

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                                                                                                                                                • Ratzsch, Del. “Teleological Arguments.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                  A careful summary of the current state of interest and research on the various types of teleological arguments, including a useful section on various patterns of inference used in design arguments as well as addressing current issues concerning the fine-tuning argument, multiple-universe hypotheses, and intelligent design movement.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Sobel, Jordan Howard. Logic and Theism: Arguments For and Against Beliefs in God. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                    A densely argued and logically sophisticated attack on all the major arguments for the existence of God, with detailed criticisms of the teleological argument and the fine-tuning version of it as well.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Swinburne, Richard. The Existence of God. Oxford: Clarendon, 1979.

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                                                                                                                                                      This book, by one of the most prominent philosophers of religion of the past century, investigates various arguments for the existence of God, including a defense of the fine-tuning version of the teleological argument.

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                                                                                                                                                      Moral Arguments

                                                                                                                                                      Moral arguments for the existence of God arise because of the common assumption connecting religion and morality. In some cases, this link takes the form of a divine command theory of ethics (or some variation on it), and the most important versions of this approach in recent philosophy are Quinn 1978 and Adams 1987 as well as Adams 2002. The connection between morality and religion might be less metaphysical and constitutive, however, as in Kant 1997 (originally published in 1785), where morality is independent of religion but leads to religion because belief in God and immortality is a necessary postulate of practical reason. Kant’s moral religion is the focus of Wood 1970, and a somewhat similar line of thought is pursued from a different theoretical perspective in Zagzebski 1987, using the facts of moral disagreement to argue for a connection between ethics and God. Layman 2002 argues for a connection on the basis of a special feature of morality, that it sometimes makes great demands of sacrifice even in cases where the sacrifice confers only modest benefits, and Wainwright 2005 offers a detailed account of the variety of ways of connecting religion and morality.

                                                                                                                                                      • Adams, Robert. “Moral Arguments for Theistic Belief.” In The Virtue of Faith. By Robert Adams, 144–163. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                                        An excellent account of the various moral arguments for the existence of God by one of the leading contemporary exponents of a divine command theory of ethics.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Adams, Robert. Finite and Infinite Goods. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                          Defends a theistically based approach to morality, beginning with the idea of the good, understood in terms of the concept of excellence rather than usefulness, and develops an account of obligation in terms of divine commands.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Edited by Mary Gregor. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                            Originally published in German as Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten in 1785, this work is one of the most influential and important in the history of moral philosophy, arguing for a rational basis of morality in a way that leads to religion (because belief in God and immortality is a necessary postulate of practical reason) but is not derived from it.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Layman, Stephen. “God and the Moral Order.” Faith and Philosophy 19 (2002): 304–316.

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                                                                                                                                                              Presents an argument for theism over naturalism based on the inability of naturalistic viewpoints to explain how one has an overriding reason to do what morality demands in cases in which great sacrifice confers only modest benefits.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Quinn, Philip. Divine Commands and Moral Requirements. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978.

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                                                                                                                                                                A careful investigation of the relationship between God and morality, arguing for a dependence on the moral order through the will of God.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Wainwright, William J. Religion and Morality. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                  A thorough study of the relationship between religion and morality, including moral arguments for the existence of God, divine command theories in ethics, as well as the issue of the tension between religious requirements and ordinary, secular morality.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Wood, Allen. Kant’s Moral Religion. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1970.

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                                                                                                                                                                    A sustained argument for the claim that Kant’s religious perspective and the centrality of the connection between religion and morality in Kant are among his greatest philosophical achievements.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Zagzebski, Linda. “Does Ethics Need God?” Faith and Philosophy 4 (1987): 294–303.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Defends theism over naturalism in terms of an argument that naturalism entails moral skepticism because of the problem of moral disagreement.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Miracles

                                                                                                                                                                      The topic of miracles is central to the philosophy of religion in two quite different ways. First, a great number of religions are founded on the basis of purported miracles, and second, the miraculous events in question are often used to defend the religious or supernatural perspective involved in these religions. Ever since Hume’s skeptical discussion about the believability of reports of miracles, however, the status of miracles has been controversial. Burns 1981 investigates the problem of miracles in Hume and includes an especially useful bibliography of the historical work after Hume. Lewis 1947 presents a popular-level treatment of the subject, using miracles to argue against naturalism, and Swinburne 1970 is a careful attempt to explicate the concept of a miracle. Earman 2000 and Fogelin 2005 present two opposing viewpoints on the success of Humean skepticism about miracles, with Earman 2000 asserting that Hume’s argument not only fails but does so in an especially exaggerated fashion, while Fogelin 2005 presents a version of Hume’s argument sensitive to the text that he claims survives careful scrutiny.

                                                                                                                                                                      • Burns, Robert M. The Great Debate on Miracles. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1981.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Explicating the problem of miracles in Hume’s original work on the problem of miracles (Section X, “Of Miracles,” in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding [Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000]), this work contains an especially useful bibliography, beginning with discussion from the 17th century.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Earman, John. Hume’s Abject Failure. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Divided into two parts, this work argues in Part I that Hume’s argument is a complete failure, and presents in Part II a useful discussion of the historical context of Hume’s argument and subsequent discourse on it.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Fogelin, Robert, J. A Defense of Hume on Miracles. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                            A textually sensitive defense of Hume’s argument, interpreting the argument as focusing on the need to fix appropriate standards for testimonial evidence in the case of testimony regarding miracles, and responding to the spate of critical commentary on Hume’s argument.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Lewis, C. S. Miracles. New York: Macmillan, 1947.

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                                                                                                                                                                              A popular-level argument against nontheistic perspectives, arguing for the possibility of miracles on the basis of difficulties faced by a naturalistic philosophy.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Swinburne, Richard. The Concept of Miracle. London: Macmillan, 1970.

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                                                                                                                                                                                This work contains both a careful treatment of the concept of a miracle and also a brief bibliography on the discussion of miracles in history, theology, and philosophy.

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                                                                                                                                                                                The Nature of God: General Works

                                                                                                                                                                                One of the most pressing issues in the philosophy of religion is philosophical theology concerning the nature of God. Works in this area often focus on specific characteristics of God, but some present more general accounts of the divine nature. Hartshorne 1948 articulates a process conception of the divine nature, and Morris 1987a presents and defends a version of perfect-being theology, contrasting it with a conception of God that focuses on his status as creator of all. Kenny 1979 is skeptical of philosophical conceptions of God, arguing that the conception in question is incoherent, and his work prompted a bevy of volumes defending the coherence of traditional theism, beginning with Swinburne 1977 and including Wierenga 1989 and Hoffman and Rosenkrantz 2002. Morris 1987b collects many of the most important papers in the genre from the past half-century, whereas Morris 1987a reprints a number of the author’s own works on the nature of God, defending the traditional, orthodox treatment of the issue.

                                                                                                                                                                                • Hartshorne, Charles. The Divine Relativity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1948.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  A defense of a process conception of God, according to which God should not be thought of in terms of static notions such as eternality and changelessness.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Hoffman, Joshua, and Gary S. Rosenkrantz. The Divine Attributes. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002.

                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1002/9780470693438Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    A detailed discussion of the central attributes of the traditional conception of God that is found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, including the attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, goodness, and eternality, among others.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Kenny, Anthony. The God of the Philosophers. Oxford: Clarendon, 1979.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Presents a sustained argument for the claim that there can be no such thing as the God of traditional natural theology, since the concept of such a being is incoherent.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Morris, Thomas V. Anselmian Explorations. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987a.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        A collection of Morris’s important papers defending the general perspective of perfect being theology, according to which the attributes of God are derived from the basic conception of God as a perfect being.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Morris, Thomas V., ed. The Concept of God. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987b.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          One of the entries in the excellent Oxford Readings collection, reprinting some of the best articles on the concept of God over the past half-century. Authors include William P. Alston, Robert Merrihew Adams, Robert Oakes, William J. Wainwright, Thomas V. Morris, Thomas P. Flint, Alfred J. Freddoso, Anthony Kenny, Alvin Plantinga, David Blumenfeld, Eleonore Stump, Norman Kretzmann, and William E. Mann.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Swinburne, Richard. The Coherence of Theism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            One of the three central works by one of the most important philosophers of religion of the past century, arguing that the traditional concept of God can be rendered coherent with only slight adjustments to the usual understandings of the central attributes such as omnipotence, omniscience, and perfect goodness.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Wierenga, Edward R. The Nature of God: An Inquiry into Divine Attributes. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              A defense of a classically theistic conception of God, describing in contemporary terms what classical theists such as Augustine, Aquinas, and Anselm wrote about God in terms of omnipotence, omniscience, eternality, timelessness, immutability, and goodness, and defending the coherence of these descriptions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Nature of God

                                                                                                                                                                                              Philosophical theology regarding particular attributes of God has flourished over the past several decades. The attributes that have been the primary focus of this work include God’s omniscience and the related problem of freedom and foreknowledge, God’s omnipotence, God’s perfect goodness, and the more abstract doctrines that God is eternal and simple, admitting of no distinction between his being and his nature.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Omniscience and the Freedom/Foreknowledge Problem

                                                                                                                                                                                              Work on the doctrine of omniscience is prompted primarily by the perceived conflict between human freedom and divine foreknowledge, a conflict traceable at least to Augustine who worried that if God knew that Adam and Eve would sin, then they had to sin because God cannot be wrong, and hence they sinned, not freely, but of necessity. Responses to this concern range from those Thomistic and Calvinist positions that deny the existence of libertarian freedom to various positions that attempt to retain libertarian freedom. Positions that deny the existence of the kind of libertarian freedom involving the ability to do otherwise are explored fully in Zagzebski 1991. One way to retain libertarian freedom is to endorse the open theist limitation on God’s complete foreknowledge, and defenses of such can be found in Adams 1977 and Hasker 1989. Another restrictive strategy is explored in Hunt 1993, where the limitation is on knowledge of alternative possible futures in favor of simple foreknowledge of the actual future. An alternative way of maintaining libertarianism involves Molinism, which came into contemporary discussion in Plantinga 1974, plays a role in Kvanvig 1986 in the context of providing a more general account of omniscience itself, and receives its most thorough presentation in Flint 1998.

                                                                                                                                                                                              • Adams, Robert M. “Middle Knowledge and the Problem of Evil.” American Philosophical Quarterly 14 (1977): 109–117.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                The classic attack on the Molinist idea that there are truths about what free individuals would do in any circumstances in which they might find themselves.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Flint, Thomas. Divine Providence: The Molinist Account. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  The most comprehensive defense of an account of providence derived from the thought of Luis de Molina, according to which God knows what free individuals would do in any possible circumstance in which he might put them.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Hasker, William. God, Time, and Knowledge. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    A defense of a version of open theism according to which God takes risks in creation by including free individuals, thereby making it impossible for him to have exhaustive foreknowledge of the future.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Hunt, David. “Simple Foreknowledge and Divine Providence.” Faith and Philosophy 10.3 (1993): 394–414.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      An argument that merely knowing the future is enough for a full doctrine of providence, in contrast to views that require knowing not only the actual future but alternative possible futures as well.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Kvanvig, Jonathan. The Possibility of an All-Knowing God. London: Macmillan, 1986.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        An explication and defense of the traditional doctrine of omniscience, knowing all truths in terms of the notion of exhaustive justified true belief.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Plantinga, Alvin. God, Freedom, and Evil. New York: Harper and Row, 1974.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          An enormously influential explication of the idea that God cannot create just any possibility, but only those possibilities compatible with what free individuals would choose to do under the various circumstances in which they might be placed.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Zagzebski, Linda. The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            A thorough investigation of the various options in addressing the apparent incompatibility of human freedom and divine foreknowledge, including a new version of the dilemma and a restricted range of possible solutions to it.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            Omnipotence

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The doctrine of omnipotence is controversial for two reasons. The first is because of the paradoxes of omnipotence, which involve descriptions of acts that seem incapable of being carried out. Some are logically contradictory, such as making a triangle with four sides, but others are not, such as is involved in the question at the heart of the paradox of the stone, “Can God make a stone too big for Him to move?” The other source of controversy concerns apparent conflict with other divine attributes. For example, God is traditionally conceived to be both omnipotent and perfectly good, but the latter apparently rules out the capacity to sin and the former may seem to require it. These controversies have led to attempts to argue against the doctrine, as in Geach 1973 in favor of an alternative doctrine that God is almighty though not omnipotent. The relationship between omnipotence and the ability to sin is investigated in Pike 1969, and La Croix 1977 suggests that omnipotence itself cannot be defined. Mavrodes 1963 generated the current interest in the paradox of the stone, and Mavrodes 1977 responds to La Croix 1977. Complex and careful accounts of omnipotence designed to salvage the doctrine in the face of concerns about it can be found in Flint and Freddoso 1983 and in Rosenkrantz and Hoffman 1980.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Flint, Thomas, and Alfred Freddoso. “Maximal Power.” In The Existence and Nature of God. Edited by Alfred Freddoso, 81–113. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              Develops an account of omnipotence in terms of actualizing states of affairs, and using the account to dissolve various puzzles about the doctrine of omnipotence.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Geach, Peter. “Omnipotence.” Philosophy 48 (1973): 7–20.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/S0031819100060381Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                A rejection of the coherence of the claim that God is omnipotent in favor of the closely related but distinct claim that God is almighty.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • La Croix, Richard. “The Impossibility of Defining ‘Omnipotence.’” Philosophical Studies 32 (1977): 181–190.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1007/BF00367728Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Argues that no general account of omnipotence is possible, and that a better strategy would be to attempt to characterize what it is for God to be omnipotent rather than to try to characterize the general nature of omnipotence.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Mavrodes, George. “Some Puzzles Concerning Omnipotence.” Philosophical Review 72 (1963): 221–223.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/2183106Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A classic paper on the paradox of the stone, launching the contemporary literature on it.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Mavrodes, George. “Defining Omnipotence.” Philosophical Studies 32 (1977): 191–202.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/BF00367729Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A response to La Croix 1977, arguing that the conditions set out by La Croix that an account of omnipotence must meet are flawed.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Pike, Nelson. “Omnipotence and God’s Ability to Sin.” American Philosophical Quarterly 6 (1969): 208–216.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        An argument for the claim that divine omnipotence is incompatible with an inability to sin, attempting to reconcile the doctrines of omnipotence and perfect goodness by distinguishing between the office of being God and the person who is God, requiring that it is impossible that someone in the office do something wrong even though it is possible for that individual to do so.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Rosenkrantz, Gary, and Joshua Hoffman. “What an Omnipotent Agent Can Do.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 1.1 (1980): 1–19.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1007/BF00138761Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A careful and precise account of omnipotence designed to show that the concept is coherent and not in conflict with other central divine attributes.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Simplicity and Eternity

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The doctrines of eternity and simplicity are controversial in a number of ways. First, both doctrines seem rooted in philosophical traditions that have little to do with the sacred traditions of major Western religions. Thus argues Wolterstorff 1975, who points to the Greek origins of the doctrine of eternity, the claim that God does not experience temporal passage. Stump and Kretzmann 1981 offers an account of the doctrine aimed at avoiding Wolterstorff’s concerns about it. Ganssle and Woodruff 2002 collects a number of papers by leading figures on the relationship between God and time, and Helm 1988 offers a thorough defense of the doctrine of eternity. Leftow 1991 defends the doctrine in terms of a distinction between the existence of God and the existence of God at a time, and includes a thorough treatment of the implications of recent scientific approaches to the nature of time as well. Regarding the doctrine of divine simplicity, the original source of contemporary interest in the doctrine is Plantinga 1980, which is a sustained attack on the doctrine. Wolterstorff 1991 offers a defense of it in terms of changing the metaphysical assumptions underlying Plantinga’s criticisms, and Stump and Kretzmann 1985 provides a limited defense of the doctrine. The most thorough account of the doctrine in the context of Aquinas’s original endorsement of the doctrine is Hughes 1989.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Ganssle, Gregory E., and David M. Woodruff, eds. God and Time: Essays on the Divine Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A collection of twelve previously unpublished essays on God’s relation to time. Authors include Brian Leftow, Garrett DeWeese, Alan G. Padgett, Dean W. Zimmerman, Quentin Smith, William Lane Craig, Edward R. Wierenga, Gregory E. Ganssle, William Hasker, Paul Helm, Thomas D. Senor, and Douglas K. Blount.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Helm, Paul. Eternal God. Oxford: Clarendon, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A defense of the doctrine that God is timeless, including responses to the charge that the doctrine is incoherent and unmotivated.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Hughes, Christopher. On a Complex Theory of a Simple God. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                An investigation into Aquinas’s thinking about divine simplicity, the idea that there is no distinction in God between his being and his characteristics, arguing that Aquinas’s conception is not defensible, although a slightly reconstructed conception may be.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Leftow, Brian. Time and Eternity. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A defense of the view that God is eternal by existing timelessly, so that though God exists, he exists at no time at all. Also included is how such a being could be an object of human experience and omniscient, as well as a discussion of the relationship between the eternality doctrine and the doctrine of divine simplicity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Plantinga, Alvin. Does God Have a Nature? Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1980.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A defense of the claim that the doctrine of divine simplicity is incoherent and that, as a result, there is a distinction to be drawn between God and his nature.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Stump, Eleonore, and Norman Kretzmann. “Eternity.” Journal of Philosophy 78 (1981): 429–458.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2026047Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A defense of the doctrine of the eternity of God, appealing to the different notions of simultaneity that play a role in general relativity theory.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Stump, Eleonore, and Norman Kretzmann. “Absolute Simplicity.” Faith and Philosophy 2 (1985): 353–391.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        An explication and defense of the doctrine of divine simplicity against the objections that have been raised against it.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Wolterstorff, Nicholas. “God Everlasting.” In God and the Good: Essays in Honor of Henry Stob. Edited by Clifton Olebeke and Lewis Smedes, 181–203. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1975.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A defense of the denial of the doctrine of divine eternity, in favor of the view that God is everlasting or in time.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Wolterstorff, Nicholas. “Divine Simplicity.” In Philosophical Perspectives 5: Philosophy of Religion. Edited by James Tomberlin, 531–552. Atascadero, CA: Ridgeview, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A defense of the doctrine of divine simplicity developed by distinguishing a property, or universals, account of predication from one more appropriate to a medieval understanding of predication, where what is predicated is a metaphysical constituent of the subject of predication.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Goodness

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Controversies surround the doctrine of divine goodness from two different directions. The most obvious one arises in the form of the problem of evil, but the concept itself provokes controversy in a number of ways. First, there are questions about how a being incapable of doing wrong could have moral duties, and satisfying moral duties seems to be a central part of the concept of goodness, a focus of Morris 1984. Second, there are issues about whether God’s goodness involves metaphysical features beyond moral features, addressed in MacDonald 1991, and about how goodness is related to God’s freedom in creation, regarding which Adams 1972 is a classic source, and to the apparent conflict between the idea that God loves his creation and yet is unaffected by anything in the world, discussed in Creel 1995.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Adams, Robert M. “Must God Create the Best?” Philosophical Review 81.3 (1972): 317–332.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/2184329Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              An investigation of the ordinary assumption that God must create the best, arguing that there may be no best possibility and that even if one exists, God may not be required to create the best because no one is wronged by the failure to create the best.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Creel, Richard. Divine Impassibility: An Essay in Philosophical Theology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A work devoted to the task of clarifying the doctrine of divine impassibility, according to which God is not influenced by the world or what goes on in it, with the claim that God’s goodness consists in part in his love for all of his creation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • MacDonald, Scott, ed. Being and Goodness. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A collection of essays on the concepts of being and goodness in metaphysics and philosophical theology, with articles by Scott MacDonald, Jan A. Aertsen, Ralph McInerny, Eleonore Stump, Norman Kretzmann, Mark D. Jordan, Jorge J. E. Gracia, William E. Mann, and Thomas V. Morris. Of particular interest are the two essays by Kretzmann on the general and particular problems of creation, in which he argues that God’s goodness requires the creation of something.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Morris, Thomas V. “Duty and Divine Goodness.” American Philosophical Quarterly 21.3 (1984): 261–268.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This article argues that although God is not literally subject to duty, there is nonetheless an account available by which God is perfectly good. Reprinted in Morris 1987a (cited under The Nature of God: General Works).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Religious Language

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Although the nature of religious language has a long and rich history in philosophical thinking about religion, the source of recent controversies about it derive from the empiricist conception of language articulated best in Ayer 1936, a conception of language that ruled out much of ordinary discourse as cognitively meaningless. The initial source of controversy arose because of Wittgenstein’s later rejection of the connection between his earlier ideas and this empiricist outlook, and the late Wittgensteinian perspective on philosophy and its tasks became enormously popular in the mid-20th century as a way of resisting the empiricist perspective. This late Wittgensteinian perspective leads to a descriptive conception of the tasks of philosophy, and such an approach toward religious language is developed and defended in Malcolm 1977, Phillips 1976, and in many of the articles in Flew and MacIntyre 1973. A later perspective, attending to more recent work in the philosophy of language and refusing to endorse the meta-philosophical perspective underlying late Wittgensteinian approaches to religious language, may be found in Alston 1989.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Alston, William. Divine Nature and Human Language: Essays in Philosophical Theology. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      A collection of reprinted articles by one of the central figures of the late 20th century in the philosophy of religion, who is also a leading expert in the philosophy of language, containing a more recent perspective on the topic of religious language that dominated the philosophy of religion during the heyday of logical positivism and logical empiricism in the early to mid-20th century.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Ayer, Alfred J. Language, Truth, and Logic. London: Victor Gollancz, 1936.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Reprinted in 1952 (New York: Dover) and 1971 (London: Penguin), this work is the classic expression of the logical positivist doctrine that limited the scope of cognitively significant language to the language of science and mathematics. Central to this limitation was the ruling out of metaphysics, ethics, and religion as involving language with literal meaning.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Flew, Antony, and Alastair MacIntyre, eds. New Essays in Philosophical Theology. New York: Macmillan, 1973.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A collection of articles, a large number of which reflect the preoccupation with the problem of religious language that arose because of the negative implications of logical positivism and logical empiricism in the early to mid-20th century for the possibility of cognitively significant religious language.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Malcolm, Norman. “The Groundlessness of Religious Beliefs.” In Reason and Religion. Edited by Stuart C. Brown, 143–157. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Malcolm was one of the most important followers of the later writings of Wittgenstein, emphasizing the role of philosophy to limit its activity to describing the way in which language is used by ordinary people in ordinary life.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Phillips, D. Z. Religion without Explanation. Oxford: Blackwell, 1976.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A development of the late Wittgensteinian perspective on religion in terms of attempting to describe the kind of language involved in religion and religious belief and to describe, rather than criticize and pass judgment on, the notion of reality that religious belief embodies.

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