•  12
    Berkeley on Religious Truths: A Reply to Keota Fields
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy. forthcoming.
    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 these utter…Read more
  •  23
    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
  •  17
    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
  •  50
    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
  •  42
    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
  •  81
    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.
  •  47
    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
  •  5
    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
  •  2
    Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 88 1-6. 2020.
  •  29
    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
  •  18
    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
  •  48
    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
  •  7
    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
  •  32
    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
  •  106
    Necessary Existence. By Alexander R. Pruss and Joshua L. Rasmussen (review)
    American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 93 (4): 763-767. 2019.
  •  64
    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.
  •  70
    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
  •  50
    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
  •  58
    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
  •  41
    The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2011.
    Omnipotence is the property of being all-powerful; it is one of the traditional divine attributes in Western conceptions of God. This notion of an all-powerful being is often claimed to be incoherent because a being who has the power to do anything would, for instance, have the power to draw a round square. However, it is absurd to suppose that any being, no matter how powerful, could draw a round square. A common response to this objection is to assert that defenders of divine omnipotence neve…Read more
  •  70
    Infinite Power and Finite Powers
    In Benedikt Paul Goecke & Christian Tapp (eds.), The Infinity of God: New Perspectives in Theology and Philosophy, Notre Dame University Press. 2019.
    Alexander Pruss and I have proposed an analysis of omnipotence which makes no use of the problematic terms 'power' and 'ability'. However, this raises an obvious worry: if our analysis is not related to the notion of power, then how can it count as an analysis of omnipotence, the property of being all-powerful, at all? In this paper, I show how omnipotence can be understood as the possession of infinite power (general, universal, or unlimited power) rather than the possession of particular power…Read more
  •  108
    Berkeley on Unperceived Objects and the Publicity of Language
    History of Philosophy Quarterly 34 (3): 231-250. 2017.
    Berkeley's immaterialism aims to undermine Descartes's skeptical arguments by denying that the connection between sensory perception and reality is contingent. However, this seems to undermine Berkeley's (alleged) defense of commonsense by failing to recognize the existence of objects not presently perceived by humans. I argue that this problem can be solved by means of two neglected Berkeleian doctrines: the status of the world as "a most coherent, instructive, and entertaining Discourse" which…Read more
  •  361
    The semantics of sense perception in Berkeley
    Religious Studies 44 (3): 249-268. 2008.
    George Berkeley's linguistic account of sense perception is one of the most central tenets of his philosophy. It is intended as a solution to a wide range of critical issues in both metaphysics and theology. However, it is not clear from Berkeley's writings just how this ‘universal language of the Author of Nature’ is to be interpreted. This paper discusses the nature of the theory of sense perception as language, together with its metaphysical and theological motivations, then proceeds to devel…Read more
  •  79
    Leibniz and the Veridicality of Body Perceptions
    Philosophers' Imprint 16. 2016.
    According to Leibniz's late metaphysics, sensory perception represents to us as extended, colored, textured, etc., a world which fundamentally consists only of non-spatial, colorless entities, the monads. It is a short step from here to the conclusion that sensory perception radically misleads us about the true nature of reality. In this paper, I argue that this oft-repeated claim is false. Leibniz holds that in typical cases of body perception the bodies perceived really exist and have the qual…Read more
  •  103
    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
  •  118
    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
  •  86
    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
  •  41
    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.
  •  118
    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