On Metaphysics (Chisholm)

Chisholm, Roderick. On Metaphysics.

Human Freedom and the Self

agent causation:  if a man is responsible for some particular deed, then an event, or set of events will be caused, not by other events, but by that man himself (Chisholm 6).

  • transeunt causation:  when one event causes some other event(s)
  • immanent causation:  when an agent causes an event.

Free will

  • actus imperatus: whether we are free to accomplish what we will to do (not what the question is concerned with)
  • actus elicitus: whether we are even free to begin this intention.

Identity through Possible Worlds

essential properties:  properties a subject has necessarily

Identity through Time

Ship of Theseus Problem: Parts of the ship (S₁)are being changed out at intervals, yet is it the same ship?  When does it become a different ship?    What if the parts of the old ship are gradually being used to build a new ship (S₂). 

Is a Person existing at one time the same as a person existing at another time, even though the human body is “changing?”

Parts as essential to their wholes

principle of mereological essentialism: for any whole x, if x has y as one of its parts, then y is part of x in every possible world in which x exists (66).

object pair: a class containing just a thing and a time that the thing constitutes an object during the time (76).  Objects are always objects at a time.

It is not necessary to say that nonprimary objects exist in any possible worlds (e.g., tokens), only primary objects (e.g., types).


A part of a thing is a constituent which is not a boundary (83).   We need the idea of boundaries as a description of physical continuity.   

“x is discrete from y” means there is nothing that is constituent of both x and y.

Df. of a part:  x is a constituent of y and x is not a boundary in y.

Substance: if x has parts, then for every y, if y is a part of x, x is necessarily such that y is a part of it (93).  Also, Platonic forms are substances.  

Problem for process philosophy: no one has ever devoted any philosophical toil showing how to reduce substances to processes (94).

The Mental

Nature of the Psychological

psychological attribute/property:  any property which is possibly such that it is exemplified by just one thing and which includes every property it implies or involves is psychological (99).


(D1) P is an attribute = Df. p is possibly such that there is something that exemplifies it.

Chisholm sees property as a subattribute.

implication: P is necessarily such that if anything has it then something has Q.

inclusion: P includes Q = Df. P is necessarily such that whatever has it has Q.

Presence in Absence (Intentionality)

There is no linguistic interpretation of intentionality.  Though precedes semantics.  

Questions about Minds

  • Descartes’ use: the mens refers to that which has psychological properties.
  • a person’s intellectual capacities
  • That which by means one thinks.
  • A spiritual substance.

Is there a mind-body problem?

The Primacy of the Intentional

de re belief: believing is a matter of believing certain properties of x. 

de dicto locution:  there is a y such that x believes with respect to it that it is true.

Object-Content distinction

object: x is an object = Df. x is something I want you to think about.


An Intentional Approach to Ontology

Properties and States of Affairs Intentionally Considered


extreme realism: there are properties, some of which are exemplified and some of which are not exemplified.

Basic Relations Between Properties

  • implication: P implies Q = Df. P is necessarily such that if it is exemplified then Q is exemplified.  The property “being a wife” seems to imply the property “being a husband”
  • Inclusion:  P includes Q = Df. P is necessarily such that whatever exemplifies it exemplifies Q.   The property being a dog includes that of being an animal, but not vice-versa.
  • Involvement: each is necessarily such that it is impossible for one to conceive it without conceiving the property x.
    • Being x.
    • Being ~x
    • Being possibly x
    • Wanting x.
  • Entailment: P entails Q = Df. P is necessarily such that for every x and every y, if y attributes P to x, then y attributes Q to x.

A negative property is a property that is the negation of a property.

States of Affairs

Df. a type of abstract object that is at least analogous in many respects to properties.  It either obtains or doesn’t obtain.

States and Events

Chisholm does not distinguish between universals as abstract objects and universals as particulars.  As a being of another thing, a state is not an ens per se.  States are ontologically dependent on things of which they are states.


The Self in Austrian Philosophy

Austrian definition of substance: something which is not a state of something else (Bolzano, quoted in Chisholm, 156).  Elements form the self-soul.  Bundle theory variant.

The Categories






Limits (boundary)





What of Classes or Sets?

Russell: the principles of set theory may be construed as being principles about attributes.


Philosopher’s Toolkit (Baginni)

Bagini, Julian and Fosl, Peter S. The Philosopher’s Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

If the word “philosophy” alarms you, as it might some pietists, substitute “critical thinking” and this book will give you a crash course in key concepts used in the literature. The book is divided into seven sections, with each section denoted 3.1, 3.2, etc. Section 1 deals with the basic tools of argumentation (validity, soundness, etc).  Section 2 explores more advanced topics, such as abduction and dialectic. Section 3 covers most of the basic fallacies. Section 4 is the most important in the book. Chapter 5 explores historical tools (e.g., Leibniz’s Law, Ockham’s Razor, etc.). Chapter 6 explores what will later be called “critical theory.”

In section 4 he deals with a number of powerful concepts. For example, analytic philosophers have noted the difference between de re and de dictionary beliefs.  De dicto refers to the statement about x, de re to the thing (4.6). In terms of necessity, it runs:

De dicto: Necessarily, (Fa)

De re: A is necessarily F.

In terms of historical analysis, for example, Baginini gives a lucid presentation of Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology–no mean feat.  To note: consciousness is a fact of existence. However, we always experience ourselves as part of something in this world.  How then can we find the essence of a thing? Husserl uses epoche to bracket out what may or may not exist. This allows him to focus on intentionality.  In other words, consciousness is always consciousness of something.

Although most readers of this review will be hostile to critical theory, perhaps rightly so, that makes this chapter extremely important.  Not all of the radical critiques are important.  Even the pertinent ones are rarely logically cogent.  As a result for this review, we will focus on a few.  Per Marx, society is divided into opposing classes, with one class opposing the other

In terms of philosophy, deconstruction does not mean what it means to today’s “ex-vangelicals.” For Derrida, the problem with philosophy is a problem of metaphysical presence. It is not exactly the same as the thing in-itself, but close enough. Reality, by contrast, is always mediated through signs.  We can never have ultimate meaning (6.2).


By all accounts this is a most useful tool for both beginning and advanced philosophy students.  Each section contains a small recommended reading list.

Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology

Flint, Thomas, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Philosophy of Religion has come into its own under the guise of Philosophical Theology and Analytical Theology. Philosophy of Religion had traditionally focused on issues like the existence of God, miracles, religious experience, and evil. Philosophical and analytical theology also covers those areas, but they do it with a level of clarity and precision not usually achieved in classroom contexts.

I don’t see this text replacing a college text on philosophy of religion such as William Rowe’s or Wainwright’s. The argumentation is a bit complex for sophomore level students. It is accessible for someone who has had some reading in medieval or analytic philosophy.

Revelation (Stephen T. Davis)

Fairly standard traditional account of God’s revelation, though Davis makes the important but sometimes ignored observation that God’s special revelation isn’t always linguistic. Sometimes God reveals himself through mighty deeds. This means that revelation does not equal canon.

He does raise the issue of “appropriated revelation,” which is “simply recorded revelation speaking to the reader,” such as God’s voice (37). There is no reason to believe that such a claim automatically bears divine authority for all Christians.


This chapter contains a number of good rebuttals to methodological naturalism without committing itself to specific biblical claims. Del Ratzch places the adherent of naturalism in a dilemma: whence does religious belief arise? The old Freudian and Marxian challenges have long since been exposed as absurd. If it is explained as simply a by-product of evolution that helps man survive, then why would it be irrational and other by-products, like reason, be rational? The claim isn’t that reason is okay because it is rational, but that anything from evolution is irrational.

We can say it another way: there is no necessary connection between a belief (either in God or reason) and behaviors that lead to survival.

Divine Simplicity (Jeffrey Brower)

Classical theism has always said God is identical to his attributes (or properties). The difficulty with this claim is that if God is identical to his properties (see Anselm, Monologion 16), and his properties aren’t different, then God is a property, which seems absurd. Brower gets around this by his account of “truthmakers,” or that which makes an entity true.

If I say “a is F” is true, there must be something that makes it true.

(TA) If an intrinsic predication of the form “a is F” is true, then a’s F-ness exists, where this entity is to be understood as the truthmaker for “a is F” (Brower 112).

Let’s take the following array of properties:

(G1) God is good.
(G2) God is wise
(G3) God is just, and so on.

Classical theism has always said God is identical with these properties, but this always raised new problems. Brower’s account, by contrast, says God is identical with the truthmakers for these properties. Whatever it is that makes these properties true, God is identical with that.

It’s a very promising move that avoids most of the problems associated with divine simplicity. God is no longer reduced to a property, which is usually where strict accounts of simplicity lead. This does raise the odd question that God might now be identical to a Truthmaker. That seems strange, but calling God a “truthmaker” does fit his character. The only difficulty is that “truthmaker” theory is notoriously difficult to pin down.

Omniscience (Edward Wierenga)

The problem: if God is omniscient, can he know first-person indexicals? In other words, can God know the following proposition:

(P1) I, Jacob, am sitting at my computer.

We aren’t asking if God knows that I am at my computer. We are asking can he know it from my perspective. This is similar to our claim that God doesn’t have experiential knowledge of sin. Wierenga proposes the following solution: indexicals express haecceity. God can “grasp” the propositions without necessarily needing to have de se knowledge of it (Wierenga 136).

Omnipotence (Brian Leftow)

Classical theism has always said that God is omnipotent in the sense that he can do all that is consistent with his nature. Leftow clarifies this to mean both range and power. Two beings can have the same range of activity, but if one can do it with more power, then that one is omnipotent. From there, Leftow takes the reader to dizzying heights.

There is a neat discussion regarding contingency and logical conjunctions. If p is contingent, and q obtains, then the conjunction p ^ q is also contingent.

Moral Perfection

Laura Garcia has a fine Anselmian essay on a morally perfect being, including some problems with the claim that God is morally excellent. If moral perfection is analyzed along the lines of duty, then we seem to be saying that God is praiseworthy only because he fulfills his duties, and that doesn’t seem quite right. Moral excellence, on some glosses, only obtains when a being acts excellently between alternatives, and it doesn’t seem to square with the classical theist claim that God’s choosing evil was a live alternative.

I think the better claim is just to jettison deontological ethics altogether.

Divine Action and Evolution (Robin Collins)

I reject Collins’ underlying premise that “evolution” is a given. That isn’t even argued. Notwithstanding, there are a number of important claims. Those who hold to a theistic evolutionary position have the tendency to speak of “nature” in anthropomorphic terms.

There is a quite interesting speculation that the “universe being subject to decay” is analogous (or maybe an effect of) the law of entropy. Perhaps. I don’t see why not, though that is beginning to like the feared “God of the gaps” argument (Collins 251).

Divine Providence (Thomas Flint)

We don’t have to agree with Flint’s Molinism, but his discussion is quite helpful. The main philosophical problem with Molinism is the “grounding objection.” Molinists claim that the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are true prior to any action or existence. Therefore, what “causes” or “grounds” their truths (Flint 278)? It seems like Molinists are saying that these counterfactuals are true before their truthmakers even obtain. Molinists have responses, of course, but that is where the issue is.

The Trinity (Michael Rea)

Rea examines the numerous “Latin” and “Greek/Social Trinitarian” proposals. His own position is that the divine nature-persons relationship functions similar to the distinction between the “stuff” of an object and its actual form (Rea 418). A statue and a pillar have the same substance (stone) but different properties (e.g., being a statue and being a pillar). This is similar to what the Cappadocians said, but as Rea correctly highlights, Gregory of Nyssa did not hold to a Social Trinitarian view. The Greek fathers did use social analogies, but those analogies fall short precisely at the point that STs need them to obtain.

Original Sin and the Atonement (Oliver Crisp)

Crisp argues for his “realist penal substitution” theory. He wants to circumvent the traditional charge that both “original sin” and to a lesser degree, penal substitution, involve legal fictions.

The Incarnation (Richard Cross)

Cross begins with a difficulty from Constantinople III: if Christ has both divine causal powers (energy and will) and human causal powers (energy and will), then it seems we cannot associate causal power (or mind) with personal identity (Cross 453). That’s the problem that needs to be solved.

Following Thomas Morris, we say that a mind is (but maybe not exhausted by) a “range of consciousness.” Next we posit an asymmetrical accessing relationship between the two ranges of consciousness. The divine mind has access to all the experiences and knowledge in the human mind, but not the other way around (Cross 466).

Resurrection (Trenton Merricks)

Merricks gives a physicalist account of the Resurrection, meaning among other things that he believes we are identical with our body. He claims such a view removes the problems that plagued traditional accounts of dualism and the Resurrection. These include a body decomposing or being eaten by cannibals. Further, what grounds our identity through time if our bodies are changing?

His essay is rigorous and well-written. It’s also funny at times. I completely reject it, though. It’s not clear how physicalism can account for identity through time (which is the standard criticism of physicalism). Secondly, I don’t see how physicalism escapes the difficulties imposed by cannibalism et al. Further, to update our examples, let’s suppose a person is vaporized in a nuclear explosion. The physicalist would probably respond that God could reconstitute the body at the Resurrection. The dualist says the same thing. Finally, Merricks rejects passages that speak of life-after-death as metaphorical, but this begs the very question.


This book doesn’t give you the answers to the questions. It gives you the tools and frameworks to work through them.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Major Works

Wittgenstein, Ludwig.  Major Works. New York: Harper Perennial, [reprint] 2009.

This collection doesn’t have Phil. Investigations, but it does contain Tractatus, the Blue and Brown Books, and On Certainty.

Even though LW later criticized Tractatus, it’s my favorite of his works.  The way of analysis in it is near perfect and it is much easier to follow than Brown and Blue Books.


By correlating language and world, Wittgenstein is saying I can’t step outside my world.  What is the world? It is the totality of existent atomic facts (2.04).

Metaphysics: objects from the substance of the world.  Substance is form + content (7-8).

He advances the bold thesis that everything is decided by logic (81).

Language and Pictures:  we see pictures of facts, where the picture is a model of reality (2.12; 4.01).

Representation: the picture is like a scale applied to reality (2.1512).  The relation which makes it a picture also belongs to that picture.  Yet, the picture cannot represent its form of representation.  It can only show it.

States of affairs

Signs: a simple sign in a proposition is a “name” (3.202).

A proposition cannot say anything about itself, for the propositional sign cannot be contained in itself (3.332). I think what he means by this is in his next line: “a function cannot be its own argument.”   I think Wittgenstein sees propositions as similar to functions. If the function F(fx) could be its own argument, then there would be the proposition F(F(fx)), and so on.

Blue Book

Key argument: the sign gets its significance from the system of signs, from the language to which it belongs (90).  As he says later on, “Language games are the forms of language with which a child begins to make use of words” (105).

Thoughts on intention: he denies that intention is a particular mental process (125).  Well, true if by it we mean that intentionality isn’t located in the mind. It is a movement of the mind to the object.

Conclusion: it is the particular use of a word that gives it its meaning (171).


1) What is the difference between a sign and the meaning of a sign (127)?

The Brown Book

Augustine learned to speak by learning the names of things (179).  LW then introduces his famous “brick” illustration. A guy points and says “brick.”  What he means is throw him the next brick. We know this because the “language-game” background is construction.

As James K. A. Smith helpfully notes, “Community precedes correspondence” (Smith, Who’s Afraid of Relativism? 53).  In other words, meaning isn’t just “the object for which the word stands.”

A language game is a system of communication. They are “complete in themselves, as complete systems of information” (185).  From that we can say that a sentence is a sign within a language game.

LW resists the idea of universals.  Let’s take his example. You have an array of red objects.  What is common to each of them? You would naturally say “red.” We would call that the universal “redness.”  So far, so good. He suggests it doesn’t work like that. “Let’s take a language (and that means again a culture) in which there existed no common expression for light blue and dark blue, in which the former, say, was called Cambridge, the latter Oxford.  If you asked a man of this tribe what Cambridge and Oxford have in common, he would be inclined to say “Nothing”” (252).

Hmm.  Okay. I suppose that works on colors.  I don’t think his rebuttal works on other types of universals.

That’s the essence of the book and I think it is fairly on point.  Wittgenstein’s genius is in very clear illustrations. I do feel this book could have been 100 pages shorter.

On Certainty

Take the question “How do you know?” The answer to that question presupposes “This can be known in that way.”  The original question was GE Moore’s “How can I know this is my hand?” The answer is to show it (sec. 40).

Wittgenstein wants to remove “this transcendent certainty, which is connected with your concept of spirit” (sec. 47). How do you know mathematical rules?  You know them by doing them. Full stop. He is pushing back against the idea of a relation between term A and term B.

LW does allow for a correspondence “between rule and meaning” (sec. 62).

Summary of argument: when language games change, there is a change in concepts, and with concepts the meaning of words change (65).

Moving on, if everything is now a language-game, then logic becomes a description of a language-game. If something’s being correct depends upon its place in a language game, and logic is usually one of the ways we can tell that, then logic, too, must be within a language-game.

This means that “all testing, all confirmation….takes place already within a system” (sec. 105). A system isn’t a point of departure.  It is the field in which our arguments have life. When we first believe something, we believe the whole system of propositions (141).

This totality of judgment is a “world-picture.” It is the “substratum of all my enquiring and asserting” (162).

Nota bene: my judgments characterize the way I judge. A proposition doesn’t always have to be “fixed” to be reliable.  They are like an axis. The axis is always moving but the moving body revolves around it (152).

LW has some excellent suggestions about the nature of doubt (115). Doubting always presupposes certainty. Doubt is parasitic upon certainty. In fact, I can doubt many things that are important, but that is irrelevant.  I can doubt its absolute truth but if it is working fine within my language game, then I don’t worry too much about the doubting. I think this is the clearest statement of pragmatism in LW.

Conclusion: a language-game is only possible if one trusts something (509).   Truth is doxastic.

Bertrand Russell: History of Western Philosophy

This book is vintage Russell: exceptionally written yet cheerfully oblivious to his own blind spots. As far as one volume summaries of philosophy go, this is probably the best–not because he faithfully explicates opposing viewpoints from an objective position; he does no such thing. Rather, he *tells* a story and tells it well. Most reviewers will urge a reader to buy (or not buy) a book based on its merits (or not buy based on its flaws). I take the opposite position–buy the book because of the parts with which you will disagree.

Russell’s book is a snapshot in some ways of the waning debate between the Anglo-Analytic school of philosophy and the Continental European school. Russell’s rejection of most Continental philosophers can be seen in his (admittedly charitable) rejection of Spinoza, “The whole of this metaphysic is impossible to accept; it is contradicted by modern logic and with scientific method. Facts have to be discovered by observation, not with reason” (578). The problem is that final sentence itself, which Russell takes to be axiomatic (note the irony!!!), is itself unverifiable by the scientific method.

I think Russell is sort of aware of this critique when he interacts with E. A. Burk’s critique of scientism. Russell tries to respond, “It is not what the man of science believes that distinguishes him, but the how and why he he believes. His beliefs are tentative, not dogmatic; they are based on evidence” (527). We should note two things by way of response: 1) Russell misunderstands the charge. We are not critiquing Copernicus’s scientific methods simply because he had open mathematical errors in his formulations. That’s not the issue at stake; rather, 2) the claim that Russell advances–scientists are not dogmatic but simply follow the “evidence” is itself a claim that is not verifiable by observation and evidence. It is accepted a priori.

Anyway, the book ends with a stunning conclusion that the history of philosophy has climaxed, not with Hegel, but with…you guessed it…Russell! Okay, that might be a bit much. Russell is in fact arguing that modern logical analysis is superior to all other systems because of various reasons which the getting into would make this review way too long. In this chapter Russell finally seems aware that most of his ability to think and write is based off of presuppositions which are beyond the realm of sense experience (thus negate about 600 pages of this book). He then proposes that modern logical analysis seeks to dethrone mathematics from its pedestal of Platonic ideals and place it more in the realm of sense experience, except he admits this can’t be done. In order to salvage his project, he says that mathematical knowledge is “verbal knowledge” (832). That’s interesting because it places the argument into the “communal ethics” school ala Alasdair MacIntyre.

There is a good section on George Cantor and actual/possible infinites.


It’s a fine book and used copies can be found literally for a few dollars. In order to really appreciate this book, though, one needs to read a few short bios on Russell. The best one is by Paul Johnson, who admittedly has an axe to grind. For example, Russell was a pacifist yet after WWII he urged the Allied leaders to nuke Moscow, thus preventing a nuclear arms race! That makes sense…I guess. If you don’t think about it. Anyway, a fun rea

Review: Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function

Plantinga begins by examining the Gettier-type problems that internalist accounts of knowledge face. Having shown these difficulties, Plantinga is now able to set the stage for his externalist approach to warrant. This he does by explaining our design function: Any well formed human being who is in an epistemically congenial environment and whose intellectual faculties are in good working order will typically take for granted at least three things: that she has existed for some time, that she has had many thoughts and feelings, and that she is not a thought or feeling (Plantinga 50).

He then examines three apparent weak points of externalism and show not only are they strong points, only a fool would challenge them: memory, other persons, and testimony. In the nature of the case we do not have basic beliefs about these three entities in the sense that evidentialism and classic foundationalism require (especially memory and testimony; solipsism has a host of problems beyond this). Throughout this defense we see the vindication of Thomas Reid.

The book is quite difficult and technical, though. The sections on probability will lose all but the most formidable philosophers. While reading these chapters one is reminded of Eowyn’s comments to Merry before the battle: “Courage, Merry; it will soon be over.”

He then gives a (mostly) wonderfully lucid discussion of coherentism, classic foundationalism, and Reidian foundationalism. Coherentism sees truth as a source of warrant in the existing relations of one’s beliefs: does a belief “cohere” and “mesh” in a larger noetic structure? Plantinga suggests this is inadequate because coherentism only tells us of the doxastic relationships between beliefs. Warrant, by contrast, needs far more, experience among other things (179). Classical foundationalism is wrong because it is self-referentially incoherent. It is not the case that the foundationalist claim (a belief is properly basic because it is either self-evident to me or immediately present to my senses) meets its own criteria: it is not self-evidently true nor is it available to the senses (182). This leaves us with Plantinga’s position: Reidian foundationalism. If a belief is formed in proper circumstances according to its proper cognitive design, it has warrant.


The book began well and ended well. The middle sections were good, too, but likely only of interest to the most doughty of analytic philosophers. While I agree with Plantinga’s thesis, there are some shortcomings (but these can be excused because they have been treated in later works). The section on Reidian foundationalism, for example, while fundamentally sound, seemed to lack, forgive the pun, coherence in articulation. I kept seeing what RF was not in relation to classical foundationalism, but very little on what it was. The final chapters on naturalism are interesting, but have since been further refined in Plantinga’s later works.

Plantinga: God and Other Minds

And so begins Plantinga’s project. Plantinga evaluates the issue of whether we are rationally *justified* in believing in God. In doing so, he considers the natural theologian’s arsenal, the atheologian’s response, and whether belief in God can be salvaged from the analogy of other minds.

Natural Theology

In considering the Cosmological, Ontological, and Teleological arguments, Plantinga points out that most criticisms of these arguments do not obtain, but still, at the end of the day, the natural theologian is not in a better position. Admittedly, this section is dizzying. The ontological argument comprised two chapters (though we did get a fine survey of the then-current literature).

Various Atheologica

Plantinga explores the atheologian’s criticisms of theism: the problem of evil (PE), the free will(FV) defense, and verificationism (Vf). With regard to PE, Plantinga notes if the atheologian’s premises are correct, it still doesn’t prove that God doesn’t exist. There is no logical contradiction between the classical theistic view of God and the existence of evil. The atheologian needs to add the following premise:

(a) An all-powerful, all-loving God is *morally obligated* to create a world where persons freely choose the good at all times.

But introducing moral considerations is off-limits for the atheologian at this time. In any case, the atheologian’s criticism only speaks of what kind of God exists, not that he doesn’t exist.

Plantinga’s FW defense is the best chapter in the book. Whether we hold to free will or not is true, Plantinga argues that it is logically coherent and thus serves to defeat the atheologian’s defeater. The atheologian wants the following premise:

(b) God could create a world where the state of affairs obtain where a person P freely chooses the good at all times.

As Plantinga notes, this is hard to square with any definition of freedom. Further, just because God is omnipotent does not mean that he can create any state of affairs (e.g., God cannot create the state of affairs that is not created by God!) Further, Plantinga gives a nice discussion of what is a human person:

(c) x is a possible person = def. x is a consistent set of H properties such that for every H property P, either P or P (complement) is a member of x (Plantinga 141).

And if it is false that God can instantiate any possible state of affairs he chooses, then it is false that he can create any person he chooses. Therefore, (b) is no threat to theism.

God and Other Minds

This last section was confusing. Plantinga argued that the other minds analogy has drawbacks but then suggests something like it to *justify* belief in God.  It’s important to note that at this point in his career, Plantinga is still speaking in terms of justification and has not yet moved to warrant.

Evaluation and Limitations

This book was one of Plantinga’s earlier projects. Notice that I have been using the word “justify” in terms of evaluating belief in God. By the time of Warrant and Proper Function, Plantinga has rejected this line of thought. Justification is a stricter criterion of rationality. It suggests deontological duty and if Plantinga wants to speak of theistic belief as *justified* on the basis of other minds analogy, then his project certainly falls short. But this is no longer Plantinga’s position.

Review: Logic-A God Centered Approach (Poythress)

This isn’t a logic textbook, yet it isn’t quite a worldview approach to logic.  It is something of both, yet completely neither.  I still liked it, though.

Image result for logic poythress

He begins with a theological “grounding” of logic, which amounts to a summary of his and Frame’s approach to worldview.  It’s good, but it lasts about 200 pages before you get into the “nuts and bolts” of logic.

He then gives a primer on deductive syllogisms, propositional logic, quantification, functions, sets, modal logic, and much else. I did enjoy the fact that he pointed out how pure systems like Russell’s and others are so formal as to have little content.  This is analogous to the desire for “pure being.”

64: Logic is an aspect of God’s mind.  It reveals God’s attributes.

89: Logic is God’s self-consistency

Key argument: Logic is personal, but it doesn’t depend on any one human person, since if all humans perished, logic would still be true. It is transcendent, displays his attributes, and is part of God’s speech (80).

This next part is important, as it provides another foundation for the rest of the book’s argument:

Axioms of Propositional Logic

Principle of Tautology: (p V p) ⊃ p 

You might need to learn this one.  Poythress’s work is unique in the sense that he puts every single axiom through a truth table.

Principle of Addition

⊃ (p V q)  “If it is dark, then (either it is raining or it is dark)”

The Principle of Permutation

(p V q) ⊃ (q V p)

If (either it is raining or it is dark), then (either it is dark or it is raining)

The Associative Principle

(p V (q V r)) ⊃ (q V (p V r))

If (either it is raining or (it is dark or it is cold)), then (either it is dark or (it is raining or it is cold))

The Principle of Summation

(q ⊃ r) ⊃ ((p V q) ⊃ (p V r))

If (it is dark implies it is cold), then (the assumption that (it is raining or it is dark) implies the conclusion that (it is raining or it is cold)).

While it might not seem like it, these are powerful tools and the reader is encouraged to work through a few of them in truth tables in the appendices.  The book has some severe drawbacks, in that it isn’t a logic textbook, and some important concepts are woefully underdeveloped (like modal logic).  But I did enjoy it and parts of it should be read.

Quick Primer on Analytic Philosophy

Before the 1970s analytic philosophy hadn’t yet escaped from logical positivism.  But even Ayers saw through that.  Now analytic philosophy has been liberated.  Here are some mandatory texts:

Wittgenstein, Ludwig.  Tractatus.  My favorite, even if he is utterly wrong.  He corrected some of this in Philosophical Investigations.

Russell, Bertrand.  Problems of Philosophy.  Once you get past Russell’s being in love with himself, it’s actually a good book.

Lewis, David.  On the Plurality of Worlds.  Not an easy read, but Possible Worlds Semantics is such a huge breakthrough.

Husserl, E.  Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy.  Not sure if Husserl is analytic or continental.  I’ve seen both use him.

Plantinga, Alvin.  God, Freedom, and Evil. You don’t have to accept his free will defense.  I like his discussions on the difference between logical and physical impossibilities. But more importantly, this is an initiation into his next volume.

Plantinga, Alvin.  The Nature of Necessity.  Third hardest book I’ve ever read, but one of the most powerful.

Poythress, Vern.  Logic: A God Centered Approach.  Flawed in many ways, but he does a good job in decoding what all the symbols mean.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas.  John Locke and the Ethics of Belief.

Loux, Michael.  Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction.

Kripke, Saul.  The Nature of Necessity.  The 20th century classic in analytic metaphysics.

Chisholm, Roderick.  On Metaphysics.  First introduced me to the Problem of Theseus’s Ship.

Rowe, William.  Thomas Reid on Freedom and Morality.  Covers a lot of issues that come up with free will.

Van Inwagen, Peter.  Metaphysics.  It’s not often you see a materialist defend free will.

Swinburne, Richard.  Evolution of the Soul.  Once you get past his evolutionary assumptions, there are some great insights on the mind-body problem.

Moreland, JP. Universals.

Definition of Essence

Some notes from Jay Richards’ Untamed God.

The definition of essence is a set of properties that an entity exemplifies (64). A property is some fact or truth about an entity in the world.  In our usage we want to say that Socrates has necessary/essential properties without saying that Socrates is necessary to every possible world.  We would say it like this:

“S has P and there is no W in which S has the complement ~P of P.  

Property actualism states that S has no properties in worlds in which he does not exist.

□(x)(P(x) → E(x))

Therefore, The essentialist argues that there is a distinction between essential divine properties and accidental (contingent) divine properties (90). Property: a state of affairs concerning entities of different types. While saying there are contingent properties in God seems to depart from the tradition, it really doesn’t.  God’s deciding to create the world is a contingent divine property. God has P in every world.  God’s essence is concretely instantiated in every possible world (95). God’s essential attributes, those he has in every possible world, are divine ‘perfections’ (96).  “They include all those properties susceptible to perfection.”