• Apologetics,  Epistemology,  Natural Theology,  Philosophy of Religion

    Nativism and Theistic Beliefs

    Did we learn the concept of God and infer his existence from some other more basic belief, or did we have the concept of God or a belief in his existence ‘already in the mind’? Such is the issue of nativism: whether there is something in the mind prior to experience. Some theologians and philosophers espouse strongly nativist views. For example, Gordon Clark argues for a form of concept nativism. He argues that human beings have “innate ideas and a priori categories” the purpose of which are for “receiving a verbal revelation, of approaching God in prayer, and of conversing with other men about God and spiritual realities.” Clark makes two…

  • Epistemology,  Ethics

    Legal Nativism?

    Over at Law and Liberty, John McGinnis favorably quotes legal scholar Harold Berman. Berman apparently told The Fulton County Daily Report (although, I can’t for the life of me find the quotation in its original context): A child says, ‘It’s my toy.’ That’s property law. A child says, ‘You promised me.’ That’s contract law. A child says, ‘He hit me first.’ That’s criminal law. A child says, ‘Daddy said I could.’ That’s constitutional law. McGinnis finds strong support for Berman’s claims in the developemt in of his own daughter: “As my daughter turns two this week, nothing has been more remarkable to this law professor than her already intense relation with rules, vindicating…

  • Epistemology,  Philosophical Theology,  Philosophy of Education,  Philosophy of Language,  Philosophy of Linguistics

    Classical Education: Loving the Rock of Reality

    “Why Latin? Why Logic? Why only ‘great’ books?”  Such are the questions levied at the classicist. They are good questions, but the best answers are not found in pragmatics, a list of the benefits of a classical education. Instead, the reason anyone ultimately prefers a classical approach to education is that she holds to a classical worldview. I say ‘ultimately’ because pragmatic answers don’t count for nothing. One cannot help using them in class to garner support for Latin verb endings. “Throughout history, the best authors were great Latinists” I said the other day. I had in mind one student whose mother had told me that she would like to…

  • Epistemology

    Beliefs and Choice

    I have a whole lot of beliefs rummaging around my mind. I believe, for example, that I am here at this moment writing this blog while listening to some funk artist called Kyle Hollingsworth on Spotify. I believe I grew up in England and was married in Minnesota in 2003 on a day when it was twenty below. I might be mistaken about what I believe, but I am not mistaken that I believe those things.  Beliefs don’t float around in the air ready to be caught. Rather, I have beliefs. If there were no people, no minds, there would be no beliefs. Other things, like propositions, are not dependent upon my mind being…

  • Epistemology,  Philosophy of Language,  Theism

    Why Correct Answers Do Not Entail Knowledge

    It is tempting to say the following: S can answer a question correctly only if S knows the answer to the question.  However, we should resist the temptation. Consider the following: When I was about 11years old I was sitting in a classroom, my gaze fixed firmly on the cricket pitch outside and paying no attention to what my teacher was saying. Then I heard my name. “Ben, can you tell us where the ship sprung a leak?” my teacher asked. Now everyone’s gaze was fixed on me. “Hull” I said without a pause. “Yes, well done Ben” my teacher replied and carried on talking. Now the backstory: When the…

  • Epistemology,  Existence of God,  God,  Natural Theology,  Philosophical Theology

    No Concept, No Belief

    You couldn’t believe in something unless you knew something about it. If I said to you that a meroganon lives at the end of my street you might say I am nuts, but you would first want to know something about a meroganon. You couldn’t know if I am nuts unless you knew something about a meroganon. I could describe one to you by listing some of its basic features. After some time you would have in your mind the concept of a meroganon and you could then be justified in thinking that I have lost my mind. Consider the person (there may be more than one) who has not…

  • Epistemology,  Learning,  Philosophy of Education,  Truth

    Make America Trust Again

    This election season has produced a lack of trust. This is especially true in the media. In a recent article in WaPo a journalist complained to Alberto Ibargüen, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, “that we no longer have trusted sources in our 21st century, social-media environment.” Ibargüen’s repose is telling: “How can there be,” he asked, “until we figure out … how to decide what a trusted source is?” What I want to suggest is that we need to re-build an atmosphere of trust. There are two virtues involved in doing so. The first is perhaps quite trivial in principle but we seem to be…

  • Epistemology,  Metaphysics,  Mind-Body Problem,  Physicalism

    Are You A Bouncy Physicalist? Take the Test and Find Out!

    If you think reality is exhaustively physical, then you will probably be either a pessimist or an optimist about naturalistic scientific discovery. You will either conclude that it is highly likely that “folk psychology,” the belief that there are irreducibly mental, non-physical entities of some sort, will be shown to be false, or you will think that though it is possible that folk psychology will be proven false, it is unlikely. The latter position entails the belief that one should continue the naturalistic research program with a physicalist assumption even though you probably won’t be able to prove it. If you’re are an optimist, a bouncy physicalist, you will think…