• 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…

  • Epistemology

    Replacement Epistemology

    I take it that I know that there is a tree over there. It is true, I believe it, and I have good reason to believe it (I am perceiving it right now and my perceptual faculties are functioning properly). Working out what it is for a belief to be true and warranted is traditionally a task for philosophy. It is a normative domain – what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for warrant? In addition, one needs an account of warrant. Are those conditions internal mental states or external causal relations of some sort? The replacement epistemologist argues that those questions have no normative answer. There is no ‘ought’…

  • Epistemology

    Law and Order!

    There are many kinds of rules. There are rules of grammar, rules of etiquette, rules of law, and rules of inference. I’m interested in them all, but in this post, the kinds of rules that interest me are the latter kind. Here is one: ‘if p, then q. p. Therefore, q.’ The rule of inference (modus ponens) is said to be truth-preserving. If the premises are true, then it follows that the conclusion is also true. There are two difficulties with law and order when it comes to inference. First, there is the apparent difficulty of explaining what sort of justification we could have for believing such rules of inference.…