Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Preparation for Quiz #2: Metaphysics, Mind and Body

The next test will be Friday, January 29.

By now, you should be able to:

1) define the following concepts:
• monism
• dualism
• compound theory
• epiphenomenalism
• materialism

  • parallelism
  • occasionalism
  • pre-established harmony

2) Answer the following questions:

• Discuss various ways people have answered the question, "what is reality?" this, Be sure to deal with these questions:
a. Is change real or an illusion?
b. is what is real reducible to one thing, or more than one thing?

If it is more than one thing, what kinds of things?

• Contrast Heraclitus’ and Parmenides’ views of reality. How does their “philosophical personality” color their conclusions? What are the consequences of their ideas?

• What is Plato's theory of Forms? (or, asked another way...)
• How does Plato explain diversity and change?

• What is the relationship between mind and body? Discuss in detail: 1) materialist 2) dualist positions. Which do you think is the Christian view? Why?
  • Discuss the various theories people have given to explain how mind and body interact, or do not interact. Which seems most plausible to you?

• Discuss one or more of Morris’ arguments supporting the view that to be human means to simply be a body (materialism).

• Discuss one or more of Morris’ arguments supporting the view that to be human means to be both a body and a mind/soul (dualism).

• Discuss one or more of Morris’ arguments, showing why the materialist view fails.

• Discuss one or more of Morris’ arguments showing why the dualist view fails.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Mind-Body Problem

1) Fred Freddoso has an article entitled "Good News, Your Soul Hasn't Died Yet," at
Freddoso is professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and a committed Catholic. Below is a portion of this
article, a paper he read at a plenary session of the 2001 meeting of the American Catholic Philosophical Association. Fredosso rejects both dualism and physicalism, claiming that "Human beings are unified substances with an immaterial formal principle" (what I've called a "compound theory").

Dualism denies our essential embodiedness and animality, while physicalism cannot account for the self that tries to study itself. In both cases, the human self is isolated from its physical surroundings and can very easily come to see itself as the sole source of whatever value and significance is had by an otherwise meaningless corporeal reality. In short, the last four centuries, despite the splendor of their scientific achievements, seem to have left many in confusion about just what human beings are and about just what value to assign to human life and action--a confusion which contemporary political liberalism simply (but not coincidentally) takes for granted, and the results of which are being played out in what Pope John Paul II has called the "culture of death."

...What we need, then, is the conceptual space to forge a metaphysical alternative to physicalism and dualism that gives us some hope of overcoming the intellectual, moral, and social consequences of them both.

2) Nancy Murphey, professor at Fuller, argues for "non-reductive physicalism" at Though she resists it, I cannot see any difference between what she is calling "non-reductive physicalism" and epiphenomenalism.
Be aware that her presentation of medieval philosophy (and Thomas Aquinas in particular) is superficial at best.

The Person in Hebrew Scriptures

It is now widely agreed that the predominant understanding of the human being in the Hebrew scriptures is holistic and nonreductive physicalist. Jewish scholar Neil Gillman writes:
anthropology knows nothing of this dualistic picture of a person which claims that a human being is a composite of two entities, a material body and a spiritual or non-material soul. . . .
The [Hebrew] Bible, in contrast, portrays each human as a single entity, clothed in clay-like flesh which is animated or vivified by a life-giving spark or impulse variously called ruah, nefesh, neshamah, or nishmat hayyim. . . .
In the later tradition, these terms came to be understood as synonymous with the Greek "soul." But this identification is not in the Bible.

For example, nefesh first meant neck or throat; by extension it signified a living being. Neshamah and ruah both mean breath or wind. Since death is the going out of the breath, it was possible to identify "something that goes out when one dies" with Plato's soul.

The Person in The New Testament

There is somewhat less agreement on New Testament conceptions of human nature. Most scholars now agree that the New Testament generally supports a holistic and nonreductive physicalist account of the person. However, some argue that the New Testament presupposes dualism, since there are a few passages appearing to support a doctrine of "the intermediate state." This intermediate state, it is said, assures Christians that between death and the general resurrection they survive to await judgment. Therefore, the person must be "constructed in such a way that at death it can `come apart,' with the conscious personal part continuing to exist while the organism disintegrates." Some of the biblical texts cited to support this are Matthew 10:28; Matthew 27:50; Luke 16:19-31; Luke 23:42-43; John 12:25; 1 Peter. 3:19-20; and Revelations 6:9-11. Several questions have to be settled in regard to these texts and their relevance for the "intermediate state." Again, one question concerns translation. For example, when it is said of Jesus in Mt. 27:50 that he "gave up his spirit," is this to be taken literally, or as a metaphorical way of saying that he died?
Second, Christians have had to distinguish between the teaching of Scripture and the assumptions, concepts, and theories of the time they were used to convey the teachings. In other words, it is common to speak of God's revelation being accommodated to the thought-forms of the ancient cultures. An important example is the use of -- or accommodation to -- ancient
cosmology throughout the Old Testament, as when Isaiah says that God will gather Israel and Judah from "the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12). So if it is shown that the New Testament speaks of an intermediate state -- or otherwise presumes some sort of dualism -- an important question to raise is whether this is biblical teaching or merely accommodation to the thought of the times. That is, we have to ask whether metaphorical language was used to convey theological truths that could not have been conveyed very well in other thought-forms at the time.
It may be most accurate to say that the New Testament has no explicit teaching on this issue. Rather, various New Testament writers assumed one or another conception of the constitution of the human being in order to teach about other issues concerning the relation of humans to one another, to the rest of creation, and to God.

Implications Of A Nonreductive Physicialist View

Both Judaism and Christianity apparently began with a concept of human nature that comes closer to contemporary nonreductive physicalism than to Platonic dualism. But, both made accommodations to a prevailing dualistic philosophy, and combined a doctrine of the immortality of the soul with a doctrine of the resurrection of the body. The pressing question now, concerns whether to return to those earlier nonreductive physicalist accounts of human nature, as many Christian theologians have urged throughout this century.
If a nonreductive physicalist view of the person is acceptable theologically and biblically, as well as scientifically and philosophically, a variety of consequences follow in the fields of ethics, spiritual development, medicine, and psychotherapy.
For example, many arguments against abortion depend on when the human soul is presumed to appear. If the soul is present from the moment of conception, then abortion at any stage of pregnancy is full-scale murder. This argument no longer makes sense with a nonreductive physicalist account of the person, in which there is no soul upon which one's humanity depends. Similar sorts of issues arise with regard to
euthanasia. It is certainly true that the concept of the soul has been valuable for ethical purposes; it needs to be shown that equally powerful arguments can be constructed using the nonreductive physicalist account of personhood. For example, Jesus' injunction to care for the "least of the brethren" (Matthew 25:40) can be applied supremely to children before they are born, as well as to the elderly at the end of their life. Notice that in Jesus' parable the emphasis is not on saving the souls of those who are in distress, but rather, on meeting their bodily needs for food, water, clothing, and companionship.
Spiritual formation throughout most of Christian history has presupposed a Platonic conception of the person. It has often been understood, for instance, that "mortification of the flesh" is necessary for the flourishing of the soul. It is likely that a nonreductive physicalist account of the person will lead to healthier and more effective approaches to spiritual life.
Psychotherapists have already come to realize the dependence of psychological health on physical health, such as when a serious illness leads to depression. Equally important is the less-frequently recognized dependence of physical health on psychological and spiritual factors. This includes, for example, the role of stress (a psychological factor) in causing ulcers, high blood pressure, and other psychosomatic ailments. Spiritual factors, such as resentment resulting from an inability to forgive others, also play a significant role in affecting one's physical health. Increasingly, studies are finding that prayer and church attendance are associated with better health. A nonreductive physicalist conception of the person can be expected to promote a more integrative practice in a variety of health-care professions. That is, it will not be possible to compartmentalize the person and to conclude that physicians treat only physical illnesses, psychologists only mental illnesses, and pastoral counselors only spiritual ills

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Preparation for Quiz #1

Quiz #1 will be given Friday, January 15.

Some tips:
  • You will choose to write on one of two essay questions, and have @ 20 minutes to do so.
  • One question will be from the readings, in case you are a visual learner who does better learning on your own.
  • One question will be from the lecture/discussion, in case you are an auditory learner who does better learning in a group.
  • Budget your time by first making a brief outline in the margin of your paper, before you write anything. You can figure that by the 10 minute point you should at least be halfway through your outline. This keeps you from belaboring a point, and makes sure you cover all points.
  • You will be graded on how well you achieve the following goals: clarity, conciseness, completeness. DON'T PAD YOUR ANSWERS.
Some things to be sure you know:

I. You should be able to define the following concepts:
A. argument
B. proposition
C. concept
F. premise
G. conclusion
I. left brain/ratio/discursive reasoning
J. right brain/intellectus/intuition/contemplation
K. General revelation
L. Special revelation
M. fideism

II. You should be able to answer the following questions:

A. Imagine a friend back home hears you are taking this class and asks you, "Just what is philosophy?" How would you respond? (No, not that way! I mean seriously!)

B. What is the law of non-contradiction, and why is it so important? Can it be proven? Discuss.

C. Compare and contrast the different ways human beings can know.

D. Explain what Tom Morris means, in his Philosophy for Dummies, when he speaks about a "triple skill set of philosophy."

E. Should Christians study philosophy? Why or why not?

F. What are the various positions one can take on the issue of the relation of faith and reason? Explain them in detail. Which one do you hold? Why?


Please refer to the syllabus for phone number and email, or use the EBC email (just be sure to spell my last name correctly!)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

C.S. Lewis on God, Nonsense and Non-Contradiction

From The Problem of Pain, p. 16:

Omnipotence means ‘power to do all, or everything’. And we are told in Scripture that ‘with God all things are possible’. It is common enough, in argument with an unbeliever, to be told that God, if He existed and were good, would do this or that; and then, if we point out that the proposed action is impossible, to be met with the retort ‘But I thought God was supposed to be able to do anything’. This raises the whole question of impossibility.

In ordinary usage the word impossible generally implies a suppressed clause beginning with the word unless. Thus it is impossible for me to see the street from where I sit writing at this moment; that is, it is impossible to see the street unless I go up to the top floor where I shall be high enough to overlook the intervening building. If I had broken my leg I should say ‘But it is impossible to go up to the top floor’–meaning, however, that it is impossible unless some friends turn up who will carry me. Now let us advance to a different plane of impossibility, by saying, ‘It is, at any rate, impossible to see the street so long as I remain where I am and the intervening building remains where it is’. Someone might add ‘unless the nature of space, or of vision, were different from what it is’. I do not know what the best philosophers and scientists would say to this, but I should have to reply ‘I don’t know whether space and vision could possibly have been of such a nature as you suggest’. Now it is clear that the words could possibly here refer to some absolute kind of possibility or impossibility which is different from the relative impossibilities and impossibilities we have been considering.
I cannot say whether seeing round corners is, in this new sense, possible or not, because I do not know whether it is self-contradictory or not. But I know very well that if it is self-contradictory it is absolutely impossible. The absolutely impossible may also be called the intrinsically impossible because it carries its impossibility within itself, instead of borrowing it from other impossibilities which in their turn depend upon others. It has no unless clause attached to it. It is impossible under all conditions and in all worlds and for all agents.

It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.

‘All agents’ here includes God Himself. His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to His power. If you choose to say ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it’, you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix them with the two other words ‘God can’. It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.

A Philosopher's Prayer

Lord, help us to argue in a biblical way, pleasing to you.
Help us to be bold, like Paul on the Areopagus.
Help us to not resist a good argument.
Help us to be humble and teachable.
Help us to love the truth so much that we gladly sacrifice our egos,
So that the question is always, “what is right?”
Not “who is right?”
Give us the mind of Christ, so that like Him,
We might glorify you.

Monday, January 11, 2010

More Quotes

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

From the Cowardice that dare not face new truth,
From the Laziness that is contented with half-truth,
From the Arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
Lord, deliver me.

The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy... neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water."
- John W. Gardner

Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but - more frequently than not - struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God. -- Martin Luther, Table-Talk

G.K. Chesterton Quotes

Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all."------ G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

... Those dealing in the actual manufacture of mind are dealing in a very explosive material. The material is not merely the clay of which man is master, but the truths or semblances of truth which have a certain mastery over man. The material is explosive because it must be taken seriously. The men writing books really are throwing bombs. --G. K .Chesterton

Philosophy is merely thought that has been thought out. It is often a great bore. But man has no alternative, except between being influenced by thought that has been thought out and being influenced by thought that has not been thought out. The latter is what we commonly call culture and enlightenment today. But man is always influenced by thought of some kind, his own or somebody else's; that of somebody he trusts or that of somebody he never heard of, thought at first, second or third hand; thought from exploded legends or unverified rumours; but always something with the shadow of a system of values and a reason for preference. A man does test everything by something. The question here is whether he has ever tested the test. -- G. K. Chesterton, The Common Man

HUMOR: Monty Python and Philosophy

The Argument Clinic

This is a classic! Definitely NOT what philosophy should be, but unfortunately what is can devolve into.

International Philosophy

The German Philosophers vs. the Greeks on the Soccer field! Can you handle the excitement?

Germany vs. Greece
"And here are their line-ups:

Welcome to the Great Conversation! (+ Links)

Welcome to PH332 and the great conversation that is philosophy!

I look forward to introducing you to some of the topics and to the philosophers who have already taken their place at the table. But most of all, I am eager to hear what you have to say.

Here are some links to help you better understand this conversation.


includes over 19,000 categorized links to philosophy resources on the Internet and has several additional features. Online since early 1997, this site is free to use, and doesn't require user registration of any kind. Begin browsing the site by using the Philosophers or Topics links , or by using the link category or special feature links.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Erratic Impact

Erratic Impact's Philosophy Research Base is categorized by history, subject and author. Integrating text resources with the best online resources, this study guide attempts to aid both academic and general interest in all philosophical genres and their related fields. Dig In! Enjoy Life! And thank you for your support.

Garth Kemmerling's Philosophy Pages

This site offers helpful information for students of the Western philosophical tradition. The elements you will find on this site include:

The Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names.
A survey of the History of Western Philosophy.
A Timeline for the intellectual figures discussed here.
Detailed discussion of several major Philosophers
Summary treatment of the elementary principles of Logic
A generic Study Guide for students of philosophy.
Links to other philosophy Sites on the Internet.
An opportunity to download the entire site for personal use.

Dale's Philosophy of Religion Links