Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

The Sixth Cologne Summer School in Philosophy

“Relying on Others: New Perspectives in Social Epistemology”

The sessional will take place in Cologne, September 7-10, 2011. The special guest this year will be Sanford Goldberg (Northwestern University). The main focus is the intersection of epistemology, philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. We will discuss foundational issues (e.g., the relationship between epistemic and semantic externalism) as well as more specialized “hot” issues in social epistemology: the division of epistemic labour, testimony, group epistemology, disagreement, various ways in which others can be epistemically significant for us, and socially extended methods of belief-formation. The Summer School is mainly aimed at professional philosophers and advanced graduate students.

Attendance is free, but limited to 50 participants – on the basis of motivation and qualification. Online application is possible through April 30. Please add a short letter of application where you briefly explain your academic background and your main motivation for participating in the Summer School. Soon after the deadline we will inform you about the success of your application.

Please send your online application to the following email address:
summerschoolphilosophy@uni-koeln.de

For more information you may visit their website:
http://www.summerschoolphilosophy.uni-koeln.de/.

Interview with C. Stephen Evans: Kierkegaard, Natural Signs and Knowledge of God

I’ve been studying existentialist philosophy to try to better understand contemporary religion in the West. Works by philosopher C. Stephen Evans have been an immense help in developing my series on faith and reason. Dr. Evans work on Kierkegaard is among the best currently in print and his analysis of Kierkegaard’s thought in light of modern Christianity sheds a great deal of light on the subject. In my series, I’ve been exploring what seems to me to be a tension between a faith that is established on an existentialist leap of faith and the subsequent desire to ground that same faith on reason and evidence. Dr. Evans deals with these topics head on.

He was kind enough to take time with Philosophy News to talk about his work and how Kierkegaard can inform a contemporary understanding of faith. In his most recent book, Natural Signs and Knowledge of God, Dr. Evans explores the use of signs as pointers to God in contemporary philosophical treatments of religious knowledge and as the basis of a response to the “new atheism.” He believes that the classical philosophical arguments for God do in fact function as positive evidence for his existence even in light of atheistic and evolutionary critiques of religious belief. In the interview that follows, I asked Dr. Evans why he believes this and what he thinks Kierkegaard has to say to believers today.

Professor Evans (Ph.D. Yale) is University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Baylor University. He has authored or edited over 20 books, many on Kierkegaard and existentialism. He was the editor for many years of Søren Kierkegaard Newsletter, is on the Board of Editorial Consultants for the journal Faith and Philosophy, and is contributing editor of Journal of Psychology and Theology. A link to his full CV is below.

I’m grateful to Dr. Evans for spending time corresponding with me on this subject and for his thoughtful dialogue.


Philosophy News Service: For people not familiar with your work, can you summarize any central themes in your writing particularly as they concern existentialist thought? What do you like to spend your time thinking about?

C. Stephen Evans: My work is wide-ranging, and I have written on issues in the philosophy of the person, in philosophical theology and philosophy of religion generally, as well as Kierkegaard. Though Kierkegaard is usually regarded as the father of existentialism, in my work I try to show how misleading that can be, particularly if we read Kierkegaard through the eyes of later writers such as Sartre and Camus.

All that being said, I think you can say that the following are issues that have been central to much of my work: How does a human being become a genuine or authentic self? and How is moral and religious truth known? I see these two questions as connected in the following way: Many writers think the problem of knowing religious truth is primarily an evidential problem. For them the question is whether we have enough good evidence. For Kierkegaard (and I agree with him here) the main problem lies not in the evidence but in the knower. How do we become the kinds of people who are capable of understanding and grasping the truth?

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Conference: Future of Creation Order

Christian Philosophy International Conference, 16 - 19 August 2011, VU University Amsterdam

People of all times have experienced the world of nature as expressing an overwhelming beauty, coherence and order. In the great monotheistic traditions this beauty, coherence and order have been related to the will or nature of a Creator. This idea has come under considerable pressure from different directions: evolutionary theory with its emphasis on the deep contingency of the living world, social science and in particular historicist and postmodernist strands in it, and philosophical critiques inspired by Marxism, Nietzschean perspectivism, existentialism, critical theory, social constructivism, and postmodernism have all served to subvert traditional conceptions of order.

The challenge for this ecumenical, interdisciplinary, and international conference is to explore whether there is room, still, for a distinction between something like an ontological affirmation of pre-given norms and ordering principles in various domains, while also acknowledging the particularity and 'locatedness' of our access to those norms and principles. Key ideas in this dialogue will be order, law, structure, principle, system, necessity, chance, change and emergence. The goal of the conference is to delve deeper into the current condition of the philosophical concept of (creation) order, and to assess its future trajectories and prospects.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Nicholas Wolterstorff (Yale)
  • Eleonore Stump (St. Louis)
  • C. Stephen Evans (Baylor)
  • Gordon Graham (Princeton Theological Seminary)
  • Denis Alexander (Cambridge)
  • William Desmond (Leuven)
  • Roy Clouser (College of New Jersey)
  • Lambert Zuidervaart (ICS Toronto)
  • Jonathan Chaplin (Cambridge)
  • René van Woudenberg (VU)
  • Gerrit Glas (VU)
  • Henk Geertsema (VU)

Call for papers

In addition to the plenary sessions, there will be further parallel workshop sessions for contributed papers. We cordially invite thinkers from all different philosophical and scientific traditions to submit a 500 word abstract on any topic relevant to the conference theme. Please prepare your abstract for anonymous review. Abstracts may be submitted by e-mail (as plain text, MS Word, Pages, or pdf files) to info@cpc2011.org or by regular mail (consult http://www.cpc2011.org for the address).

Abstracts should be submitted to the conference organizers by March 31st, 2011. Notification of acceptance / rejection: April 15th, 2011.

Practical details

Session length for contributed papers will be 30 minutes including question time. We encourage authors to prepare papers that take no longer than 20 minutes to present so as to leave suitable time for questions and discussion afterwards.

Further information and registration

For all further details, online registration, and payment, please visit http://www.cpc2011.org. Feel free to contact us with questions about the conference at info@cpc2011.org.

New Book by Alvin Plantinga on Science and Religion

Plantinga takes on the New Atheism in his upcoming book, Where the Conflict Really Lies. Stay tuned for more information.

A friend recently made me aware of this book in which one of the worlds foremost Christian philosophers will seek to address many of the arguments being proffered by New Atheists like Dennett and Dawkins. According to the Oxford University Press website, the book,

illuminates one of our biggest debates--the conflict between science and religion. Plantinga examines where this conflict is said to exist--looking at areas such as evolution, divine action in the world, and the scientific study of religion--and considers claims by Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Philip Kitcher that evolution and theistic belief cannot co-exist. He makes a case that their arguments are not only inconclusive, but that the supposed conflicts themselves are superficial, due to the methodological naturalism used by science.

I’ll post more information here as I get it and will write a review of the book as soon as I’m able. Stay tuned.

See the OUP listing here.

Is Religion to Blame? Part 2

The last installment of Table Talk examined the popular notion that religion has been the cause of more wars and conflicts than any other factor. The conclusion included a statement by Dinesh D’ Souza, Christian apologist and author. D’Souza argued that atheists have "greatly exaggerated the crimes that have been committed by religious fanatics while neglecting or rationalizing the vastly greater crimes committed by secular and atheist fanatics."

Many atheists and secularists have presented arguments that attempt to demonstrate that “religion has been the cause of more wars and conflicts than any other factor.” Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Denett, and Sam Harris have led the modern resurgence of these types of arguments. These “four horsemen” have argued that religion is evil and its effects have been felt in history particularly through its role in global conflicts. Dawkins has stated that religion (particularly monotheism) is a bad thing which is described as “the great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture….Religion causes wars by generating certainty” and “…such absolutism nearly always results from strong religious faith and it constitutes a major reason for suggesting that religion can be a force for evil in the world.” Sam Harris contends that “faith inspires violence in at least two ways. First, people often kill other human beings because they believe that the creator of the universe wants them to do it. Second, far greater numbers of people fall into conflict with one another because they define their moral community on the basis of religious affiliation…The conflicts are not always explicitly religious. But the hatred that divides one community from another are often the products of their religious identities.”

As mentioned in the last installment of Table Talk, these statements have been accepted as truisms not only in academia but are starting to be repeated in popular treatments. Are Dawkins and Harris’s arguments sound? Dawkins’ point that monotheism is “the great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture” stems from his perspective about the causes of war and religion’s role in them. But consider the following.

History, specifically 20th century history, shows that numerous anti-religious regimes have caused much bloodshed. RJ Rummell, professor of political science from the University of Hawaii, created the term “democide” which means the murder of any people or person by a government. He has done extensive research in the area of democide and he has concluded that there were more deaths by democide in the 20th century than deaths by war. This means that more people died in the 20th century as a result of recognized governments who unjustly incarcerated people in camps where they died of malnutrition and forced labor or deported people into lands where they would die of exposure and disease. Many of those 20th century governments who committed democide were regimes that committed massacres in the name of anti-religious ideologies such as communism. These regimes included the Stalin regime of the former Soviet Union which killed an estimated 20 million people, the Mao Zedong regime of China which killed an estimated 65 million people, the Pol Pot regime of Cambodia which killed an estimated 2 million people, and other communist regimes in Latin America, North Korea, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Angola, and Mozambique.

In addition to Rummell, other sources such as Jonathan Glover’s powerful book, Humanity, and The Black Book of Communism compiled by a group of French scholars attest to these numbers and atrocities. The 20th century has been considered the bloodiest century mankind has ever known and anti-religious regimes have been the most significant perpetrators in this century. This does not mean that religion played no part in these atrocities as can be seen by recent events in Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, Rwanda, Burundi, Nigeria, Israel, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite this, much destruction has been caused by anti-religious and militant atheistic governments. Which provides at least prima facie evidence that religion may play a secondary role when it plays a role at all.

From these historical facts, is it justified for one to conclude that all anti-religious ideologies and anti-religionists are corrupt and violent? No, this is not justified and the facts do not permit this conclusion. These anti-religious regimes do not represent all anti-religionists out there and someone who judges all anti-religionists and their ideologies in this fashion is wrong. But why do men such as Dawkins and Harris conclude that religion is evil from the premise that there have been conflicts influenced by religion? They do not draw the same conclusion from the non-religious conflicts that have occurred. They do not conclude that anti-religionists and their ideologies are forces of evil in this world. Dawkins and some of his fellow atheists are guilty of special pleading because they utilize different standards when assessing wars and conflicts with anti-religious elements and when assessing wars and conflicts with religious elements-religion is to blame but anti-religion (e.g. atheism) is not to blame. Why? Dawkins and company have argued that regimes such as the Stalinist, Mao, and Pol Pot regimes were misrepresentations of atheism, but they have not extended this same charity to religion.

If they did, perhaps the current conversation would move in a more productive direction.

Article on The New Atheism on the Huffington Post

I just published my second article on The Huffington Post. In this article, I take a brief look at whether the New Atheist movement really deserves the adjective “new.” I argue that it does but not for the reasons you might think.

The general consensus on the part of professional philosophers on all sides of the question is that the popular arguments being made by new atheists like Dawkins and Dennett are not all that new. Some argue that neither are they particularly strong versions of their classic cousins. At the very least, many find that the new atheist polemic is not being delivered in a way that is particularly winsome or compelling -- a problem that seems to have plagued atheists for as long as there has been atheism.

See the full article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-pardi/whats-so-new-about-the-ne_b_824918.html

CFP: Formal Epistemology Meets Experimental Philosophy

First Pittsburgh -Tilburg workshop on  Formal Epistemology Meets Experimental Philosophy

Tilburg Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science

29-30 September 2011

http://www.uvt.nl/tilps/FEMEP2011/

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Over the years, the methodological toolbox of philosophers of science has widened considerably. Today, formal and experimental methods importantly complement more traditional methods such as conceptual analysis and case studies. So far, however, there has not been much interaction between the corresponding communities. Formal work is all too often conducted in an a priori fashion, drawing on intuitions to substantiate various assumptions and to test their consequences. Experimental work, on the other hand, is often limited to testing various assumptions and intuitions, and often does not identify or create new phenomena that can subsequently be integrated into a formal framework. The working assumption of this workshop is that philosophy of science can gain a lot from combining formal and experimental studies. By doing so, philosophy of science will become increasingly scientific as a crucial aspect of the scientific endeavor lies in the combination of formal theories and experimental insights.

This workshop aims to explore the relation between formal and experimental approaches to the philosophy of science. We invite meta-theoretical papers, but especially papers that fruitfully combine both methods to problems from the philosophy of science. This first Pittsburgh-Tilburg workshop will pay special attention to the philosophy of the social sciences, but a focus on other subfields of philosophy of science is also welcome.

We invite submissions of both a short abstract (max. 100 words) and an extended abstract (1000-1500 words) by 1 May 2011. Decisions will be made by 15 May 2011. Submission details here.

Keynote Speakers

Christina Bicchieri, Philadelphia

Mark Colyvan, Sydney

Ralph Hertwig, Basel

Publication

Selected papers will be published in a special issue of Synthese (subject to the usual refereeing process). The submission deadline is 31 December 2011. The maximal paper length is 7000 words.

More information

Cognition, Conduct & Communication

Cognition, Conduct & Communication CCC2011
06.10.11-08.10.11
University of Lódz, Poland

The Chair of Pragmatics at the University of Lódz, Poland is starting a new conference series: Cognition, Conduct & Communication. CCC2011 is the first international conference devoted to a complex yet integrated and consistent study of cognitive approaches to pragmatics and discourse analysis, language learning and use, and language disorders.

Conference focus

  • interdisciplinary yet synergical research in diversified cognitive and pragmatic phenomena and processes pertaining to communication in native and second/foreign language in normally developing as well as disordered individuals
  • cognitive, pragmatic and discourse analytic concepts at work across the contexts of first, second, foreign language acquisition, learning, processing, comprehension and production
  • pragmatic competence and pragmatic awareness development in naturalistic and educational settings, including the effectiveness of educational interventions undertaken to enhance pragmatic skills
  • individual learner/language user differences and pragmatic disorders

Conference discussions will proceed at the intersection of the following areas: cognitive pragmatics, societal pragmatics, clinical pragmatics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, educational psychology, cognitive linguistics, cognitive psychology, applied linguistics, discourse analysis
Research scope/Conceptual instruments/Submission keywords:

  • deixis
  • semantic/pragmatic presupposition
  • speech acts, activity types, genres
  • implicature/impliciture/implicit meaning
  • context
  • relevance
  • (im)politeness
  • intentionality
  • pragmatics of interaction
  • conceptual metaphor
  • rhetorical figures, in particular: irony, metaphor and metonymy
  • persuasion and manipulation
  • humour
  • gendered language
  • non-verbal communication
  • language and emotions
  • interlanguage pragmatics
  • pragmatic development and pragmatic awareness in first/second/foreign language context
  • pragmatics and language teaching; developing communicative competence
  • developing teaching materials for function-focused/pragmatics-driven L2 instruction
  • disorders of language learning and cognition
  • clinical pragmatics; pragmatic disorders

The list is NOT exhaustive

institution: University of Lódz
Chair of Pragmatics (http://ia.uni.lodz.pl/pragmatics)
participants: Piotr Cap (http://ia.uni.lodz.pl/pragmatics/faculty/pcap)
Joanna Nijakowska (http://ia.uni.lodz.pl/pragmatics/faculty/jnijakowska)
Marta Dynel (http://ia.uni.lodz.pl/pragmatics/faculty/mdynel)
contact person: Joanna Nijakowska
email: ccc2011conference@gmail.com

Click link for more information…
http://ia.uni.lodz.pl/CCC2011/

2011 Thomistic Seminar at Princeton

The 2011 Thomistic Seminar:
Themes in the Philosophy of Peter Geach and Thomas Aquinas
John Haldane, Director
August 7-13, 2011

The 2011 Thomistic Seminar is the Witherspoon Institute's sixth annual, week-long, intensive program for graduate students in philosophy and related disciplines. The seminar is devoted to exploring the intersection between analytic philosophy and the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition.

Faculty:
John Haldane, University of St. Andrews
E. J. Lowe, Durham University
Anthony O'Hear, University of Buckingham
Candace Vogler, University of Chicago

Click here for details

A Puzzle Even Harder Than The Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever

Certain Doubts has posted a new version of The Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever complete with new gods and new responses. It starts out as follows:

Three gods, A, B, and C are called in some order, True, Random, and Devious. True always speaks truly, and whether Random speaks truly or falsely or whether Random speaks at all is a completely random manner. . .

Get the rest here.

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Interview with

Dr. Robert McKim
  • on Religious Diversity
  • Professor of Religion and Professor of Philosophy
  • Focuses on Philosophy of Religion
  • Ph.D. Yale

Interview with

Dr. Alvin Plantinga
  • on Where the Conflict Really Lies
  • Emeritus Professor of Philosophy (UND)
  • Focuses on Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion
  • Ph.D. Yale

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Dr. Peter Boghossian
  • on faith as a cognitive sickness
  • Teaches Philosophy at Portland State University (Oregon)
  • Focuses on atheism and critical thinking
  • Has a passion for teaching in prisons
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