• Language

    Names and Doctrines

    A recent member of philosophy twitter invited responses to the following: “name a widely held philosophical doctrine that you’ve never found in the slightest degree plausible.” The writer named utilitarianism. Another responder said, ‘philosophy of language.’ Something can be implausible (or plausible) only if it can believed. A doctrine is a statement (or set of statements) with a subject and assertions about it. We have doctrines of various things. One might have a doctrine of what makes actions right or wrong, or a doctrine of the Trinity. To provide a name for something that can be plausible or implausible one must name a doctrine. As far as I can tell,…

  • Education

    Concepts in Ed.

    I have started re-reading George R. Knight’s book, Philosophy and Education: An Introduction in Christian Perspective. I am reading it with a student from one of my classes. It is an excellent book. I wish you could all join our little group, so I thought I’d post some of our discussions for your reading pleasure. In the first chapter, Knight analyses some key concepts in education – learning, education, and training. Here are his analyses in my own words based on what my student and I discussed: If I burn my hand in the fire, I learn not to put my hand in the fire again. Learning like this happens…

  • Ethics,  Theology

    Feinberg on Grace and Justice

    This semester, I have assigned and read out loud the following passage from John Feinberg’s book, Where is God? The book is about Dr. Feinberg’s experiences of suffering. His wife was diagnosed with Huntingdon’s, an incurable and horrible disease. The question he deals with in the passage below is not limited to those who suffer. It is a question for any Christian. What precisely is the relationship between justice and grace? “…something was still wrong. There seemed to be a basic unfairness about our situation. Put simply, why was this happening to us, and not also to other people? Wasn’t it unjust of God to ask us to bear this…

  • Epistemology

    Doctrine, Devotion, and Duty

    If I say, “I know God,” I am telling you that I am personally acquainted with him. If I say, “I know that God is omnipotent,” I am telling you that I have good reason to believe that the proposition expressed in that sentence is true. If I say, “I am obeying the command to love God by obeying his command to serve others,” I am telling you something about my activities. I am telling you about an obligation to perform an action and the fact that I am meeting it. All three of these aspects relate to one another in crucial ways. For example, I can’t have a personal…

  • Epistemology

    Inference and Obligation

    An inference is a kind of intellectual movement. Suppose I consider one belief I might have. I consider what follows from it and, as a result, I come to believe something else. Coming to believe something from something else is an inferential process. Most plausibly, the process involves adhering to a rule of inference. For example, the rule of modus ponens has the following form: if p, then q. p. Therefore, q. If I believe that apples grow on trees and I believe that the fruit I am eating is an apple, I can use modus ponens to infer that the fruit I am eating grew on a tree. The…

  • Aesthetics

    Why my Guitar Gently Weeps

    I have played the guitar since I was 14. One of its chief attractions for me is the guitar’s capacity to express emotion. To be honest, I’m not that good at expressing mine in any other way. ‘I feel sad’ doesn’t quite capture emotion in the same way a lengthy bend on my B string can. And nothing says ‘I’m annoyed’ as well as a tritone. My influences were all players who knew how to ‘speak’ with their guitars (see here, here, here, or here for examples). For some reason, I hear emotions in some sounds. I don’t merely mean that the music causes me to have an emotion. I…