•  24
    Berkeley on religious truths: a reply to Keota Fields
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 30 (6): 1121-1131. 2022.
    ABSTRACT Berkeley admits that certain religious utterances involve words that do not stand for ideas. Nevertheless, he maintains, these utterances may express true beliefs. According to the use theory interpretation of Berkeley, these true beliefs consist in dispositions to follow certain rules. Keota Fields has objected that this interpretation is inconsistent with Berkeley’s commitment to the universal truth of the Christian revelation. On Fields’ alternative interpretation, the meanings of th…Read more
  •  46
    The Epistemology of Testimony: Locke and His Critics
    In Stephen Howard & Jack Stetter (eds.), The Edinburgh Critical History of Early Modern and Enlightenment Philosophy, Edinburgh University Press. forthcoming.
    Contemporary discussions of the epistemology of testimony are often framed in terms of the disagreement on this topic between Hume and Reid. However, it is widely assumed that, prior to Hume, philosophers in the grip of Enlightenment individualism neglected philosophical questions about testimony, simply treating testimony as ordinary empirical evidence. In fact, although the evidential model of testimony was popular in early modern philosophy, it was also the subject of vigorous debate. This ch…Read more
  •  48
    God’s Impossible Options
    Faith and Philosophy 38 (2): 185-204. 2021.
    According to Michael Almeida, reflections on free will and possibility can be used to show that the existence of an Anselmian God is compatible with the existence of evil. These arguments depend on the assumption that an agent can be free with respect to an action only if it is possible that that agent performs that action. Although this principle enjoys some intuitive support, I argue that Anselmianism undermines these intuitions by introducing impossible options. If Anselmianism is true, I arg…Read more
  •  89
    Foundational Grounding and Creaturely Freedom
    Mind 131 (524): 1108-1130. 2021.
    According to classical theism, the universe depends on God in a way that goes beyond mere (efficient) causation. I have previously argued that this ‘deep dependence’ of the universe on God is best understood as a type of grounding. In a recent paper in this journal, Aaron Segal argues that this doctrine of deep dependence causes problems for creaturely free will: if our choices are grounded in facts about God, and we have no control over these facts, then we do not control our choices and are th…Read more
  •  176
    Astell and Masham on Epistemic Authority and Women's Individual Judgment in Religion
    Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy. forthcoming.
    In 1705, Mary Astell and Damaris Masham both published works advocating for women's use of individual judgment in matters of religion. Although both philosophers advocate for women's education and intellectual autonomy, and both are adherents of the Church of England, they differ dramatically in their attitudes to religious authority. These differences are rooted in a deeper disagreement about the nature of epistemic authority in general. Astell defends an interpersonal model of epistemic author…Read more
  •  159
    Is There a God?: A Debate
    Little Debates About Big Questions. 2021.
    Each author first presents his own side, and then they interact through two rounds of objections and replies. Pedagogical features include standard form arguments, section summaries, bolded key terms and principles, a glossary, and annotated reading lists.
  •  76
    God's Perfect Will: Remarks on Johnston and O'Connor
    Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion 10 248-254. 2022.
    Why would God create a world at all? Further, why would God create a world like this one? The Neoplatonic framework of classical philosophical theology answers that God’s willing is an affirmation of God’s own goodness, and God creates to show forth God’s glory. Mark Johnston has recently argued that, in addition to explaining why God would create at all, this framework gives extremely wide scope to divine freedom. Timothy O’Connor objects that divine freedom, on this view, cannot be so wide as …Read more
  •  12
    Peter Browne on the Metaphysics of Knowledge
    Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 88 215-237. 2020.
    The central unifying element in the philosophy of Peter Browne is his theory of analogy. Although Browne's theory was originally developed to deal with some problems about religious language, Browne regards analogy as a general purpose cognitive mechanism whereby we substitute an idea we have to stand for an object of which we, strictly speaking, have no idea. According to Browne, all of our ideas are ideas of sense, and ideas of sense are ideas of material things. Hence we can conceive of spiri…Read more
  •  6
    Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 88 1-6. 2020.
  •  40
    Arnauld follows Descartes in denying that sensible qualities like color are modes of external objects. Yet, unlike Malebranche, he resists the apparent implication that ordinary statements like ‘this marble is white’ are false. Arnauld also follows Descartes in saying that we perceive things by having ideas of them. Yet, unlike Malebranche, he denies that this sort of talk implies the existence of intermediaries standing between the mind and its external objects. How can Arnauld avoid these impl…Read more
  •  21
    Berkeley occasionally says that we use analogy in thinking and speaking of God. However, the scholarly consensus is that Berkeley rejects the traditional doctrine of divine analogy and holds instead that words like ‘wise’ apply to God in precisely the same way as they apply to Socrates. The difference is only a matter of degree. Univocal theories of the divine attributes have historically been charged with anthropomorphism—that is, with imagining God to be too similar to human beings. Can Berkel…Read more
  •  65
    Are We Free to Break the Laws of Providence?
    Faith and Philosophy 37 (2): 158-180. 2020.
    Can I be free to perform an action if God has decided to ensure that I do not choose that action? I show that Molinists and simple foreknowledge theorists are committed to answering in the affirmative. This is problematic for their status as theological incompatibilists. I suggest that strategies for preserving their theological incompatibilism in light of this result should be based on sourcehood. However, the path is not easy here either, since Leibniz has shown how theological determinists ca…Read more
  •  18
    Irish Philosophy in the Age of Berkeley: Volume 88 (edited book)
    Cambridge University Press. 2020.
    This volume presents a selection of new articles examining the state of Irish philosophy during the lifetime of Ireland's most famous philosopher, Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753). The thinkers examined include Berkeley, Robert Boyle, William King, William Molyneux, Robert Molesworth, Peter Browne, Jonathan Swift, John Toland, Thomas Prior, Samuel Madden, Arthur Dobbs, Francis Hutcheson, Mary Barber, Constantia Grierson, Laetitia Pilkington, Elizabeth Sican, and John Austin. This interdiscipli…Read more
  •  41
    Peter Browne on the Metaphysics of Knowledge
    In Kenneth L. Pearce & Takaharu Oda (eds.), Irish Philosophy in the Age of Berkeley, Cambridge University Press. pp. 215-237. 2020.
    The central unifying element in the philosophy of Peter Browne (d. 1735) is his theory of analogy. Although Browne's theory was originally developed to deal with some problems about religious language, Browne regards analogy as a general purpose cognitive mechanism whereby we substitute an idea we have to stand for an object of which we, strictly speaking, have no idea. According to Browne, all of our ideas are ideas of sense, and ideas of sense are ideas of material things. Hence we can conceiv…Read more
  •  131
    Necessary Existence. By Alexander R. Pruss and Joshua L. Rasmussen (review)
    American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 93 (4): 763-767. 2019.
  •  88
    Intentionality, Belief, and the Logical Problem of Evil
    Religious Studies 56 (3): 419-435. 2020.
    This paper provides a new defence against the logical problem of evil, based on the naturalistic functional/teleological theory of mind (NFT). I argue that if the NFT is self-consistent then it is consistent with theism. Further, the NFT entails that it is not possible for created minds to exist in the absence of evil. It follows that if the NFT is self-consistent then the existence of God is consistent with the existence of evil.
  •  88
    Berkeley's Theory of Language
    In Samuel C. Rickless (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Berkeley, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    In the Introduction to the Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, Berkeley attacks the “received opinion that language has no other end but the communicating our ideas, and that every significant name stands for an idea” (PHK, Intro §19). How far does Berkeley go in rejecting this ‘received opinion’? Does he offer a general theory of language to replace it? If so, what is the nature of this theory? In this chapter, I consider three main interpretations of Berkeley's view: the mod…Read more
  •  71
    William King on Free Will
    Philosophers' Imprint 19. 2019.
    William King's De Origine Mali contains an interesting, sophisticated, and original account of free will. King finds 'necessitarian' theories of freedom, such as those advocated by Hobbes and Locke, inadequate, but argues that standard versions of libertarianism commit one to the claim that free will is a faculty for going wrong. On such views, free will is something we would be better off without. King argues that both problems can be avoided by holding that we confer value on objects by valuin…Read more
  •  72
    Ideas and Explanation in Early Modern Philosophy
    Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 103 (2): 252-280. 2021.
    Malebranche argues that ideas are representative beings existing in God. He defends this thesis by an inference to the best explanation of human perception. It is well known that Malebranche’s theory of vision in God was forcefully rejected by philosophers such as Arnauld, Locke, and Berkeley. However, the notion that ideas exist in God was not the only controversial aspect of Malebranche’s approach. Another controversy centered around Malebranche’s view that ideas are to be understood as posits…Read more
  •  822
    Berkeley’s Lockean Religious Epistemology
    Journal of the History of Ideas 75 (3): 417-438. 2014.
    Berkeley's main aim in his well-known early works was to identify and refute "the grounds of Scepticism, Atheism, and irreligion." This appears to place Berkeley within a well-established tradition of religious critics of Locke's epistemology, including, most famously, Stillingfleet. I argue that these appearances are deceiving. Berkeley is, in fact, in important respects an opponent of this tradition. According to Berkeley, Locke's earlier critics, including Stillingfleet, had misidentified the…Read more
  •  137
    How Berkeley's Gardener Knows his Cherry Tree
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 98 (S1): 553-576. 2017.
    The defense of common sense in Berkeley's Three Dialogues is, first and foremost, a defense of the gardener's claim to know this cherry tree, a claim threatened by both Cartesian and Lockean philosophy. Berkeley's defense of the gardener's knowledge depends on his claim that the being of a cherry tree consists in its being perceived. This is not something the gardener believes; rather, it is a philosophical analysis of the rules unreflectively followed by the gardener in his use of the word 'exi…Read more
  •  110
    The Everlasting Check: Hume on Miracles (review)
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 54 (4): 680-681. 2016.
    This book provides a concise treatment of David Hume’s “Of Miracles,” defending both an interpretation of Hume’s argument and an evaluation of its philosophical significance. The philosophical argumentation is consistently rigorous, and the interpretation of Hume is interesting and original.A distinctive aspect of George’s approach, which should have been highlighted in the introduction but was not, is his treatment of “Of Miracles” as a standalone essay. This approach serves to illuminate certa…Read more
  •  144
    Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World
    Dissertation, University of Southern California. 2014.
    Berkeley's philosophy is meant to be a defense of commonsense. However, Berkeley's claim that the ultimate constituents of physical reality are fleeting, causally passive ideas appears to be radically at odds with commonsense. In particular, such a theory seems unable to account for the robust structure which commonsense (and Newtonian physics) takes the world to exhibit. The problem of structure, as I understand it, includes the problem of how qualities can be grouped by their co-occurrence in …Read more
  •  77
    Orthodox Christianity affirms a bodily resurrection of the dead. That is, Christians believe that at some point in the eschatological future, possibly after a period of (conscious or unconscious) disembodied existence, we will once again live and animate our own bodies. However, our bodies will also undergo radical qualitative transformation. This creates a serious problem: how can a body persist across both temporal discontinuity and qualitative transformation? After discussing this proble…Read more
  •  148
    According to Kant, there is some doctrine, which he sometimes calls 'empirical realism,' such that it was doubted by Descartes, denied by Berkeley, and endorsed by Kant himself. It may be doubted whether there really is such a doctrine or, if there is, whether it takes the form Kant seems to say it does. For instance, if empirical realism is taken as the assertion that familiar objects like tables and chairs exist, then this doctrine was neither seriously doubted by Descartes, nor denied by Berk…Read more
  •  148
    Mereological Idealism
    In Tyron Goldschmidt & Kenneth L. Pearce (eds.), Idealism: New Essays in Metaphysics, Oxford University Press. pp. 200-216. 2017.
    According to commonsense, some collections of objects compose wholes, and others do not. However, philosophers have found serious difficulties with attempts to preserve this thesis, and especially with attempts to preserve the existence of just those composite objects recognized by commonsense. In this paper, I defend a classical solution to this problem: "it is the mind that maketh each thing to be one" (Berkeley, Siris, sect. 356). According to this view, which I call 'mereological idealism,' …Read more
  •  394
    Foundational Grounding and the Argument from Contingency
    Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion 8. 2017.
    The argument from contingency for the existence of God is best understood as a request for an explanation of the total sequence of causes and effects in the universe (‘History’ for short). Many puzzles about how there could be such an explanation arise from the assumption that God is being introduced as one more cause prepended to the sequence of causes that (allegedly) needed explaining. In response to this difficulty, this chapter defends three theses. First, it argues that, if the argument fr…Read more
  •  58
    To the great puzzlement of his readers, Berkeley begins by arguing that nothing exists other than minds and ideas, but concludes by claiming to have defended the existence of bodies. How can Berkeley's idealism amount to such a defense? I introduce resources from Berkeley's philosophy of language, and especially his analysis of the discourse of physics, to defend a novel answer to this question. According to Berkeley, the technical terms of physics are meaningful despite failing to designate any…Read more
  •  876
    Thomas Reid on Character and Freedom
    History of Philosophy Quarterly 29 (2): 159-176. 2012.
    According to Thomas Reid, an agent cannot be free unless she has the power to do otherwise. This claim is usually interpreted as a version of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities. Against this interpretation, I argue that Reid is committed to the seemingly paradoxical position that an agent may have the power to do otherwise despite the fact that it is impossible that she do otherwise. Reid's claim about the power to do otherwise does not, therefore, entail the Principle of Alternate Possibi…Read more