• Argument

    Anti-Anti-Reduction

    Suppose I argue that what makes a proposition true is its correspondence to a state of affairs. “All very well,” my interlocutor responds, “but true statements are so much more than statements that correspond to reality. They often inspire, exhort, warn, and comfort.” Or, suppose I say that apologetics is a rational defense of the the content of Christian beliefs. “Yes, yes,” my interlocutor says, “but defenses of the faith shouldn’t just be rational defenses. They often require imaginative storytelling, poetry, and other art forms. People aren’t merely reasoning machines. We must appeal to their imaginative nature.” In both cases, the reply should not be a defense of a reductive…

  • Apologetics,  Epistemology

    Not Ready to Quit: Combatting Epistemic Apathy

    For as many centuries as there has been a church, there has been a concerted effort to rationally defend its beliefs against skepticism. That’s what apologetics is supposed to do. A Christian apologetic is primarily a rational defense of the contents of the Faith. Throughout history, defenders of the Faith assumed that Christian beliefs aren’t mysterious inexplicable attitudes. They don’t arise from nowhere. Instead, they are properly formed. In our present age, although Christians have maintained their own psychological resilience in their beliefs, they are not so sure such resilience can be maintained in defending those beliefs. Some suggest that the most that we can do is help people see…

  • Aesthetics,  Art

    Feelings and Film

    Consider the following scenario: you are watching a movie in which a character, S, is in great peril. You fear for the life of S knowing that there is no such person and no real peril. Are you being irrational? After all, there is nothing to be afraid of. Perhaps, instead, you aren’t really scared. You’d feel completely differently if you were in peril and the peril was real. You certainly wouldn’t place yourself in peril for fun. Perhaps you are experiencing something like fear for S but not real fear. Still, it certainly feels like fear. Further, it isn’t the case that you’d never enjoy real fear. People pay…

  • Aesthetics,  Epistemology

    Beliefs and Imagination

    The strength of my faith rests in part on repeated readings of the Chronicles of Narnia. The imagination is a powerful faculty of the human mind. As Gordon Graham writes, “Assembling evidence is often a rational strategy in arriving at a verdict, but imagination … can be another means by which reality is brought home to us” (Gordon Graham). What I want to consider in this post is the comparison Graham makes between imagination and a rational strategy. Presumably, by ‘reality is brought home to us’ and ‘arriving at a verdict’ Graham means belief. A ‘rational strategy’ for forming a belief (presumably) involves a proposition, p, being justified by evidence and basing…

  • Epistemology

    On Intellectual Method

    Broadly speaking, there are two competing intellectual methodologies: One either starts with the details, attempting to solve particular problems one at a time, or one starts at the top by attempting to develop maximally coherent systems. In a recent recent interview, James White said the following about his conversion to postmillenialism: “Postmillennialism is a top-down theology.  It begins with over-arching themes that flow naturally and beautifully from Reformed theology. Instead of starting down at the bottom and trying to build up a system based upon interpreting symbols and apocryphal texts, postmillennialism starts with the over-arching purpose of God in Christ.” White starts with a system and then fits the details…

  • Epistemology

    In Defense of Correspondence

    I don’t know from where I got the following argument. I’m not even sure it’s any good. Here it is anyway. Some preamble: There are three broad theories of truth. According to a correspondence theory of truth, a statement is true if and only if it in some way corresponds to, or is in harmony with, a state of affairs. In contrast, a coherence theory suggests that a statement is true iff it does not contradict other statements which are part of a set of statements. Finally, according to a pragmatic theory of truth, statements are true when they are useful/beneficial when believed.  Now, here’s the argument. Assume that the correspondence theory is…

  • Aesthetics,  Hermeneutics

    Intentionalism Defended

    Intentionalism is the view that the meaning of a text is just what the author meant by it. In the following, I am going to lay out a case for it given by E. D. Hirsch, perhaps its most well known recent proponent. First, a distinction: According to Hirsch, there is a difference between the meaning of a text and its significance. He writes, “Meaning is that which is represented by a text; it is what the author meant by his use of a particular sign sequence; it is what the signs represent. Significance, on the other hand, names a relationship between that meaning and a person, or a conception, or a situation,…

  • Education,  History of Ideas

    What’s the Point of Studying the History of Philosophy?

    The project of constructing a history of philosophy comprises at least three projects, two of which are explanatory and one evaluative. First, a history of philosophy seeks to explain our present circumstances, especially their intellectual foundations. As A. C. Grayling puts it, “Philosophy’s history … is a retrospective construct. It is chosen from the wider stream of the history of ideas in order to provide today’s philosophical concerns with their antecedents” (A. C. Grayling, The History of Philosophy, xv).  Tracing the origin of an idea explains how we got where are. It also demonstrates that the intellectual problems we presently face are not novel. They are problems with an intellectual history. Often we…