January 29, 2019

Juicy Quote XVII

Filed under: Philosophy — camcintosh @ 11:16 pm

“‘How ugly the stars are tonight! How trivial the pounding of the waves on the beach! And is it not crass to be thrilled by mountains? The rain forest and the wild-flowers are quite repulsive. And as for sunsets…’. If a full-blown relativism in aesthetics was correct, then those responses would be unusual but not in any way improper. But my reaction is that anyone who fails to appreciate the beauty of this universe is defective.”

—Peter Forrest, God without the Supernatural (Cornell, 1996), p. 133.


December 20, 2018

Review of Craig on Aseity

Filed under: Philosophy — camcintosh @ 8:29 pm

I met my goal of finishing my joint review of William Lane Craig’s God Over All (Oxford, 2016) and God and Abstract Objects (Springer, 2017) by Christmas. Still a draft, comments are welcome. The final will come out with Philosophy in Review next year.

I was much more disappointed with these books than I thought I’d be. There is something stiff-necked about Craig on this topic that is very frustrating, as my review shows. But his skill at mastering the subtleties of a vast, technical literature is enviable.



October 31, 2018

Exciting New POR Content

Filed under: Philosophy — camcintosh @ 6:12 pm

Notre Dame’s prestigious Center for Philosophy of Religion, associated with the cutting-edge work of the highest quality in the field, just uploaded a bunch of new and exciting content to their YouTube channel.

NDCPRComplimenting the high-profile lectures on, e.g., the atonement, problem of evil, faith, etc. and wonderfully animated videos of Plantinga’s defining contributions to the field, you can now find a host of videos on such perennial topics as racism, gender as a social construct, sexual orientation, gendered eating, gender discrimination, the marginalization of women, disability, and the role of religious communities in perpetuating “religious trauma.” Behold, the future of philosophy of religion!

Oh, and don’t miss CPR’s “Diversifying Analytic Theology” competition for “the best paper in analytic theology of an underrepresented religious or theological tradition,” sponsored by the APA’s Diversity and Inclusiveness Fund!

September 17, 2018

SCP: 1978-2018

Filed under: Philosophy — camcintosh @ 5:09 pm

Well, the Society of Christian Philosophers had a good run, celebrating its 40th anniversary at a vegan-catered conference this past weekend. Like the American Philosophical Association, the SCP is a shell of its former self, having been soul-sucked by political activists on the left. Consider Alvin Plantinga’s vision of nearly 40 years ago, as detailed in his “Advice to Christian Philosophers”:

My counsel can be summed up on two connected suggestions, along with a codicil. First, Christian philosophers and Christian intellectuals generally must display more autonomy–more independence of the rest of philosophical world. Second, Christian philosophers must display more integrity–integrity in the sense of integral wholeness, or oneness, or unity, being all of one piece. … And necessary to these two is a third: Christian courage, or boldness, or strength, or perhaps Christian self-confidence. We Christian philosophers must display more faith, more trust in the Lord; we must put on the whole armor of God.

Compare that to the SCP’s vision today as gravestonesummarized by one of the conference organizers:

The future is about teaching philosophy better, engaging in community outreach, rethinking “the canon”, willing to think about mental illness, seeking to be compassionate and caring, promoting diversity and inclusion, and working to be less white. And it includes children.

This vision, relayed in typical Orwellian code, could just as well be that of any other progressive, secular organization’s. Hence, the Society of Christian Philosophers can no longer be said to exist as a distinctively Christian or philosophical organization. Its acronym should henceforth be understood to stand for the Society of “Christian” Progressives. I’m sure Uncle Al and Sr. Swinburne are proud of this bold, counter-cultural direction.

Addendum (9/19/2018) in response to feedback.

  1. Saying the conference was “vegan catered” implies (falsely) it was exclusively vegan, when in fact there were also non-vegan options. Fine. For what it’s worth, the “vegan-catered conference” quip was meant to be a more humorous way of remarking on the political makeup of the conference (I’m told around 20% of the attendants were vegan or vegetarian).
  2. I was not presenting the quote in the post as a summary of the SCP’s official mission statement. This should have been clear from the facts that (i) it is obviously not formally written, and (ii) I was comparing it to Plantinga’s “Advice,” which was also not an official mission statement. The SCP’s official mission, available on their site, reads:

    The Society of Christian Philosophers was organized in 1978 to promote fellowship among Christian Philosophers and to stimulate study and discussion of issues which arise from their Christian and philosophical commitments. One of its chief aims is to go beyond the usual philosophy of religion sessions at the American Philosophical Association and to stimulate thinking about the nature and role of Christian commitment in philosophy.

    The quote in my post, rather, is the conference organizer’s summary of a seven-person panel discussion on “The Future of Christian Philosophy”. Given that context, make whatever you will of the importance of that summary.

  3. To my knowledge, no one has yet challenged my main point that the SCP has become a left-leaning organization without Christian distinction, as indicated chiefly by its institution of “diversity” quotas and the obvious intrusion of identity politics and all its attending social demands. Even “guidelines for inclusive chairing” are being passed out at the events! A more subtle post could and should be written. I wrote the above in haste and in frustration. But its main point stands.
  4. I’ve had a great time, and met many great people, at SCP events. They are, I’m sure many would attest, remarkable for their conviviality. That is precisely why I and many others are concerned about the SCP’s current trajectory, and are increasingly uneasy with financially supporting it through our membership. And some, I know for a fact, are happy to see us go. This leads to a final point.
  5. There seems to be a “Cold War” of sorts between progressive and conservative members of the SCP. Swinburnegate was a spark that ignited subterranean combustibles that had been brewing for a while. Social media and blogs are not ideal fora for determining just how deep our differences go. I, for one, think a conference on this would be great. I think getting together in person to explore and discuss this openly and honestly would go a long way toward a more accurate diagnosis of the problem, not to mention opportunities for reconciliation. If there is sufficient interest in such a conference, I’d be delighted to help organize it.

July 26, 2018

Phenomenal Conservatism and Dream Skepticism

Filed under: Philosophy — camcintosh @ 2:53 pm

Phenomenal conservatism: if is appears to S that p is the case, then S is prima facie justified in believing p is the case. It appears to me that I am not dreaming. So, I am prima facie justified in believing I am not dreaming.

Dream skepticism objection: Ah, but as you learned from Wykstra, ‘appears claims’ are justified only if: If p were not the case, then S would not likely be appeared-to-p-ly. But the possibility of a dream-inducing evil genius guarantees that your appearances would be no different, whether you were dreaming or not. So you cannot justify knowledge of the external world by appeal to phenomenal conservatism.inception-totem

But maybe there is a difference, namely: it appears to me that there is a difference between dreaming and wakefulness. Now, the very fact that I am aware of such a distinction at all suggests the distinction is real. Were our whole lives a mere dream, how could we even be aware of such a distinction as that between dreaming and wakefulness?

To say I merely dreamed of the distinction does nothing to discredit the legitimacy of the distinction: I have a concept of a phenomenal state called “dreaming”, and I also have the concept of a different phenomenal state, one that is not dreaming. The distinction is as conceptually solid as any other between two distinct things. But then how do I get the concept of wakefulness in the first place other than from a state of wakefulness? It would be like having the concept of a color without having seen the color.

So the fact that it appears to me that there is a distinction between dreaming and wakefulness justifies my belief that there is something that induces non-dreaming phenomenal states—i.e., an external world. But does it justify the belief that I am not dreaming now? I don’t see how it could seem to me that there is a distinction between two phenomenal states without having actually experienced those different states, as seemings are phenomenal states. I must know what its like to dream, and know what it’s like not to dream; i.e., to be awake. And these two are not the same. So I must be able to tell the difference somehow (even if I can’t articulate exactly how). So I have good reason to believe that it is false that were I dreaming, I would not be appeared-to differently. And since it seems to me now that I am awake and not dreaming, I am prima facie justified in believing I am awake and not dreaming.

May 3, 2018

For All the Right Reasons

Filed under: Philosophy — camcintosh @ 12:41 pm

I’ve taken a break from my dissertation to write a chapter for a forthcoming book called Ethics, Left and Right: Moral Issues that Divide Us, projected to be used in college ethics courses. The angle of the anthology, as the title indicates, is to bring philosophers on both the political left and right into dialogue on the usual hot-button topics (gun control, abortion, feminism, immigration, race, etc.). My own chapter does more stage-setting work, as I sketch a conservative view of the world in general terms rather than defend a conservative position on a specific topic. The word count restriction was oppressive, but I am very proud of the result. Here it is.

It is no secret that philosophers, no less than their counterparts in other disciplines, overwhelmingly lean left. One recent book estimates that professors who identify as “far left” outnumber those who identify as “far right” between 30 to 1 and 50 to 1! The ratio is no doubt even more extreme among philosophers in particular, and has been for a long time (as documented by Neven Sesardic in his excellent book When Reason Goes on Holiday: Philosophers in Politics). Accordingly, there is more than reasonable suspicion that conservative views don’t often get a fair hearing in the university. So I think a book like this is a fantastic idea, and I hope it is successful. Much thanks to Bob Fischer, the editor, for having me contribute.

February 24, 2018

We Don’t Need a National Conversation about Guns (or Nearly Anything Else)

Filed under: Philosophy — camcintosh @ 6:39 pm

Below is an article I recently wrote for American Thinker, which ran a truncated version on Feb 22. Given my topic, I was amused to see that their website describes their mission as follows: “We want to advance the national conversation with fresh insight”.

We Don’t Need a National Conversation about Guns (or Nearly Anything Else)

I was, up until the Sunday afterward, blissfully ignorant of the horrific shooting that occurred in Parkland, Florida three days prior. Upon learning of the shooting, my heart sank. Sorrow turned to anger, frustration, and despair as I learned more details. Anger at the misinformation. No, the shooter wasn’t associated with a white supremacist group. Frustration at the preventability of this tragedy had the police and FBI done their jobs in following protocols and enforcing laws already in place. And despair that, judging by the deep divisions between us so apparent on social media, those who predict another civil war in this country may well be right.

Maybe I was better off not knowing. Maybe most of us would have been. Can knowing less national news, somewhat paradoxically, make for a broader, more accurate, and healthier perspective as a citizen? Does promoting a “national conversation” about this or that problem—most recently, gun control—do more harm than good? I think so. Being exposed to a constant cacophony of problems, the vast majority of which do not personally affect us, nonetheless engenders social unrest that does affect us. Just look at your social media feeds. Despite its ostensible purpose of “connecting” us, social media is, in fact, tearing us apart. Anti-American forces, foreign and domestic, know this and are doing what they can to exacerbate the problem.

It would be hard to exaggerate how much this sense of social unrest primes us to accept leftist philosophy: the problems seem so many and beyond our control that we might begin thinking that only something as big as the federal government can have the solutions. So we give it more power. Don’t miss the irony: in response to our sense of powerlessness, we relinquish more power. This is how the Leviathan grows. It would quickly starve if we just removed ourselves from the “national conversation” — or at least what is commonly meant by that term.

In another sense, engaging in a national conversation is our civic duty. This is, in effect, what national elections and congressional voting sessions are. But apart from our limited and infrequent contributions to those, there really is no national conversation to be had precisely because of our impotence at a national level. And this is a good thing.

Think about it. When someone close faces a problem, there is a sense, beyond merely being empathetic, in which we take their problem on as our own. We have a shared interest in each other’s flourishing, and in virtue of our intimacy we have privileged authority and insight and into the conditions of our flourishing. The more intimately acquainted we are with someone, the likelier we are to know just what they need. The converse also holds. The less intimately acquainted we are with someone, the less likely we are to know what they need, and the less authority we have to speak to their problem. And there is a point of distance when other peoples’ problems cease being our own, not because we don’t care, but because we are impotent to solve them.

National news media outlets of all varieties conspire to create the illusion of intimacy in matters that are almost always distant, and with it the illusion of authority and insight into those matters. If they’re telling me about something, I suppose I ought to know about it. And if I ought to know about it, I suppose I ought to do something. But when I discover I am powerless to do anything with the information I’ve been given, and yet dissonantly believe I need to know it, I get angry, frustrated, and fall into despair. At last, I feed the Leviathan.

The philosophical underpinnings of the irony here was perhaps best articulated by Neil Postman in his classic book Amusing Ourselves to Death. When it comes to national news, which largely consists of information irrelevant to me, knowledge is not power. It leads instead, in Postman’s words, to “diminished social and political potency.” Prior to the advent of mass media technologies, the value of information was determined by how it affected my actions, and was disseminated and consumed accordingly. Back then, “the information-action ratio was sufficiently close so that most people had a sense of being able to control some of the contingencies in their lives.” Contrast that with the sense of control we get from information that has little to no action-value by asking yourself a series of questions like the following:

What steps do you plan to take to reduce the conflict in the Middle East? Or the rates of inflation, crime and unemployment? What are your plans for preserving the environment or reducing the risk of nuclear war? What do you plan to do about NATO, OPEC, the CIA, affirmative action, and the monstrous treatment of the Baha-is in Iran?

And we might add: what steps do you plan to take to reduce gun violence? The answer to these questions is: none, really. The most a civilized person can do is cast a vote every few years and hope for the best. Thus, the excessive consumption of national news encouraged by mass media has only served to “dignify irrelevance and amplify impotence.” While mass media technologies “may have made the country ‘one neighborhood,’” Postman observes, “it was a peculiar one, populated by strangers who knew nothing but the most superficial facts about each other.” And if we need proof of how quickly we can get nasty with strangers, just consider road rage. As common as it is, its virtual equivalent on the world wide roadways of the web is all the more. Armed with nothing but the most superficial facts about each other, we reconcile our belief in the importance of national news with our powerlessness to do anything with it by engaging in a “national conversation” – which is rarely more than impulsive snark, slogans, memes, and misinformation. It does more harm than good.

To combat the increasing sense of social unrest, we should replace the norm of interest in national affairs, created by excessive devotion to national news by mass media outlets, with an interest in the local affairs of our own state, county, community, and family. It was, after all, the conviction that local concerns should take precedence over the non-local that gave birth to our country (bye bye Britain!) and the principles upon which it was founded (Federalism, subsidiarity). We have bucked this conviction to our detriment. It is no secret that the guarantee of national exposure motivates mass shooters. That same guarantee is exploited by terrorists. And there is no doubt that national attention given to a handful of controversial police shootings is responsible for the myth that blacks are disproportionately victimized by law enforcement in the United States. Similar national attention given to isolated incidents of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. are responsible for the myth that these are systemic problems in America. And as these “national conversations” continue, our sense of powerlessness grows, and the Leviathian right along with it.

I’m not recommending that we be luddites or political ostriches with our heads buried in the sand. But the wisdom in what Rod Dreher calls The Benedict Option is becoming clearer by the day. At the very least, we need to periodically take a rest from what is causing so much unrest. Turn off the TV and radio. Take a break from Facebook and Twitter. Don’t look at your cell phone. Doing so would be for the good of not just our own souls, but the soul of the country as well.

February 6, 2018

Juicy Quote XVI

Filed under: Juicy Quotes,Philosophy — camcintosh @ 7:10 pm

“To say that ‘God is perfect’ is true by definition requires more than showing that perfection is part of the definition of ‘God’ or the concept of God. It requires showing that this definition or concept is consistent. Leibniz saw this, and took pains to argue that the definition of God as ‘the being that has all perfections’ is consistent. This question about the consistency of the concept of God is the fundamental question in the ontological argument. Whether existence is a perfection, or necessary existence is a perfection, [or, we might add, whether existence is a predicate,] are really irrelevant questions … That so much should turn on such a simple question is, to me, a fascinating fact of metaphysics.”

—James Cargile, “The Ontological Argument,” Philosophy 50/191 (1975), p. 69, 80.

January 4, 2018

Books of 2017

Filed under: Philosophy — camcintosh @ 11:37 am

Well, I don’t have much to show for in 2017, academically speaking. Moving states and remodeling an old house while teaching two classes will do that. Most of my reading time now is devoted to material for my dissertation. What other time I’ve had for books went to the following:


  1. William Lane Craig, God Over All (Oxford, 2015).
  2. Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen, Embryo (Doubleday, 2008).
  3. Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and Robert George, What is Marriage? (Encounter, 2012).
  4. John Kekes, A Case for Conservatism (Cornell, 1998).
  5. Michael Knowles, Reasons to Vote for Democrats (Self. Pub., 2017).
  6. William Manchester, The Last Lion Vol. 1. Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 (Little, Brown & Co., ed. 2012).
  7. William Manchester, The Last Lion Vol. 2. Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940 (Little, Brown & Co., ed. 2012).
  8. William Manchester, The Last Lion Vol. 3. Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 (Little, Brown & Co., ed. 2012).
  9. Jay Richards, Money, Greed, and God (HarperOne, 2010).
  10. Ann Rule, The Stranger Beside Me (Pocket, 2008).
  11. Neven Sesardic, When Reason Goes on Holiday ( Encounter, 2016).
  12. John Toland, Adolf Hitler Vol. 1 (Doubleday, ed. 1976).
  13. John Toland, Adolf Hitler Vol. 2 (Doubleday, ed. 1976).
  14. J. D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy (Harper, 2016).


  1. Eric Larsen, The Devil in the White City
  2. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
  3. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
  4. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Sadly, almost all of my books sat packed away in boxes for half the year. But it felt great to be on my feet more than my butt all summer. Now that the study is set up, though, this coming year should be a better showing. I’m in contract to contribute to an ethics anthology, and am going through a lot of books for that. And, of course, there’s what I need to get through for the dissertation!

April 16, 2017

Not Dying is Not Sufficient

Filed under: Christian Doctrine — camcintosh @ 1:11 pm

It is hard to overestimate the importance of the resurrection in Christian theology and worship, if it is even possible to do so. Christianity is all about resurrection. In the resurrection we see nearly every other essential Christian doctrine at work. But for all that, the death of Christ on the cross unduly dominates the empty tomb in the pulpit, and our celebration of the birth Christ at Christmas unduly overshadows our celebration of his victory over death at Easter.

Perhaps one reason the importance of the resurrection is underappreciated is because we play fast and loose with the term “resurrection.” Pop culture uses of the term are hopelessly divorced from its theological meaning (e.g., zombies are sometimes said to be resurrected). But Christians too misuse the term, as is often and easily done when describing Jesus’ miraculously raising Lazarus or Jairus’ daughter from the dead as Jesus’ resurrecting them. Even some Bible editors have titled the section in John 11 “The Death and Resurrection of Lazarus”!

Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead may well have been a sign of what was to come later (Jesus’ own resurrection), but it was not at that point the thing itself. Even the term “raised” in most Biblical contexts bears the significance of resurrection. What, then, is the key difference between resurrection proper and these other cases of supernatural raisings from the dead?

dali21Some, who although are careful to distinguish resurrection from these other cases, nonetheless miss the key difference. The difference is emphatically not, as is commonly thought, that those who are resurrected will not die again, whereas those who are supernaturally revived will. It is true that the resurrected will not die again. That, however, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for resurrection. Consider: suppose after Jesus raised him from the dead, God assumed Lazarus into heaven like He did Enoch and Elijah. We’d have a case of rising from the dead without a “second death,” but still not resurrection.

The key difference is that the resurrected have the transformed, glorified body that Paul describes in 1 Cor 15. The resurrected won’t die again precisely because death can’t touch the transformed body. To repeat, it is not because Lazarus, et al. died again that his being raised wasn’t a resurrection; it it because he wasn’t raised with a transformed body. CARM rightly sees the glorified body as salient, but confusedly distinguishes two kinds of resurrection rather than distinguishing resurrection from supernatural revivifications. This, again, plays fast and loose. There is no resurrection without a glorified body. A resurrection without a glorified body would make zero conceptual sense to first century Jews, and so should make no more sense to 21st century Christians.

This is one reason I love Dali’s Corpus Hypercubus, where Christ is hanging on an unfolded hypercube, which happens to take the shape of a cross. More popularly interpreted to mean Christ’s divine nature can’t be fully grasped by us 3D+t creatures, the wound-less body on the rising cross calls to my mind resurrection—there’s something extra-dimensional about that restored, radiant body, the hypercube cross representing both that extra-dimensional reality as well as the gateway to it.

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