•  637
    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
  •  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
  •  338
    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
  •  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
  •  179
    Counteressential Conditionals
    Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 5 (1): 73-81. 2016.
    Making sense of our reasoning in disputes about necessary truths requires admitting nonvacuous counterpossibles. One class of these is the counteressentials, which ask us to make contrary to fact suppositions about essences. A popular strategy in accounting for nonvacuous counterpossibles is to extend the standard possible worlds semantics for subjunctive conditionals by the addition of impossible worlds. A conditional A □-> C is then taken to be true if all of the nearest A worlds are C worlds.…Read more
  •  175
    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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  94
    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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  81
    Language and the Structure of Berkeley's World
    Oxford University Press. 2017.
    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
  •  70
    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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  63
    Necessary Existence. By Alexander R. Pruss and Joshua L. Rasmussen (review)
    American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 93 (4): 763-767. 2019.
  •  54
    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. forthcoming.
    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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  45
    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
  •  45
    Idealism: New Essays in Metaphysics (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2017.
    Idealism is the view that reality is fundamentally mental. Idealism has been influential historically, but it has been neglected in contemporary metaphysical debate. This volume of 17 essays by leading philosophers rectifies the situation.
  •  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.
  •  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
  •  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