•  3
    God's Perfect Will: Remarks on Johnston and O'Connor
    Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. forthcoming.
    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
  •  1
    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
  •  1
    Preface
    Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 88 1-6. 2020.
  •  14
    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
  •  11
    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
  •  28
    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
  •  3
    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
  •  23
    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. forthcoming.
    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
  •  63
    Necessary Existence. By Alexander R. Pruss and Joshua L. Rasmussen (review)
    American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 93 (4): 763-767. 2019.
  •  41
    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.
  •  50
    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
  •  40
    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
  •  37
    Ideas and Explanation in Early Modern Philosophy
    Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie. forthcoming.
    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
  •  91
    Counterpossible Dependence and the Efficacy of the Divine Will
    Faith and Philosophy 34 (1): 3-16. 2017.
    The will of an omnipotent being would be perfectly efficacious. Alexander Pruss and I have provided an analysis of perfect efficacy that relies on non-trivial counterpossible conditionals. Scott Hill has objected that not all of the required counterpossibles are true of God. Sarah Adams has objected that perfect efficacy of will (on any analysis) would be an extrinsic property and so is not suitable as a divine attribute. I argue that both of these objections can be answered if the divine will i…Read more
  •  107
    Most accounts of miracles assume that a necessary condition for an event's being miraculous is that it be, as Hume put it, “a violation of the laws of nature.” However, any account of this sort will be ill-suited for defending the major Western religious traditions because, as I will argue, classical theists should not believe in violations of the laws of nature. In place of the rejected Humean accounts, this paper seeks to develop and defend a Leibnizian conception of miracles on which an event…Read more
  •  81
    Arnauld's Verbal Distinction between Ideas and Perceptions
    History and Philosophy of Logic 37 (4): 375-390. 2016.
    In his dispute with Malebranche about the nature of ideas, Arnauld endorses a form of direct realism. This appears to conflict with views put forward by Arnauld and his collaborators in the Port-Royal Grammar and Logic where ideas are treated as objects in the mind. This tension can be resolved by a careful examination of Arnauld's remarks on the semantics of ‘perception’ and ‘idea’ in light of the Port-Royal theory of language. This examination leads to the conclusion that Arnauld's ideas reall…Read more
  •  34
    Port-Royal
    Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online. 2015.
    Port-Royal-des-Champes was an abbey in France, initially located near Versailles, but later moved to Paris. Its importance to the history of philosophy is due primarily to a group of Augustinian-Cartesian thinkers who developed an influential theory of mental and linguistic representation.
  •  100
    Locke, Arnauld, and Abstract Ideas
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 27 (1): 75-94. 2019.
    A great deal of the criticism directed at Locke's theory of abstract ideas assumes that a Lockean abstract idea is a special kind of idea which by its very nature either represents many diverse particulars or represents separately things that cannot exist in separation. This interpretation of Locke has been challenged by scholars such as Kenneth Winkler and Michael Ayers who regard it as uncharitable in light of the obvious problems faced by this theory of abstraction. Winkler and Ayers argue th…Read more
  •  50
    Berkeley's Philosophy of Religion
    In Richard Brook & Bertil Belfrage (eds.), The Bloomsbury Companion to Berkeley, Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 458-483. 2017.
    Traditionally, religious doctrines and practices have been divided into two categories. Those that purport to be justified by natural reason alone are said to be part of natural religion, while those which purport to be justified only by appeal to supernatural revelation are said to be part of revealed religion. One of the central aims of Berkeley's philosophy is to understand and defend both the doctrines and the practices of both natural and revealed (Christian) religion. This chapter will pro…Read more
  •  273
    Understanding Omnipotence
    with Alexander R. Pruss
    Religious Studies 48 (3): 403-414. 2012.
    An omnipotent being would be a being whose power was unlimited. The power of human beings is limited in two distinct ways: we are limited with respect to our freedom of will, and we are limited in our ability to execute what we have willed. These two distinct sources of limitation suggest a simple definition of omnipotence: an omnipotent being is one that has both perfect freedom of will and perfect efficacy of will. In this paper we further explicate this definition and show that it escapes the…Read more
  •  64
    In the Preface to the Three Dialogues<, Berkeley says that one of his main aims is to refute the free-thinkers. Puzzlingly, however, we are then treated to a dialogue between two Christians in which the free-thinkers never reappear. This is related to a second, more general puzzle about Berkeley's religious polemics: although Berkeley says he is defending orthodox conclusions, he also reminds himself in his notebooks "To use the utmost Caution not to give the least Handle of offence to the Churc…Read more
  •  538
    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
  •  104
    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
  •  86
    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
  •  129
    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
  •  66
    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
  •  98
    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
  •  107
    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