God, World & Value:
On the Axiology of Theism and the Rationality of Faith
Many of us find engaging with nature to be spiritually significant. But the depth and character of that significance will depend on our broader metaphysical outlook.
To illustrate, imagine finding out some old sketch hanging on your wall has been, all this time, a page from the notebooks of Leonardo Davinci. I presume finding this out would lead you to appreciate the sketch in a new and deeper way, and to value it to a far greater degree. An otherwise identical sketch, made by some random person, would not be nearly so valuable. It seems that just being made by Leonardo would add enormous value to the sketch.
With this example in mind, consider how theists understand the relation between God and the world. They think God made the world. And God would be incomparably greater than Davinci. All the more, the theist might think, God’s having made the world would add great value to it, and would give us a new and deeper way of appreciating the things around us, especially in the natural environment.
What’s more, the pantheist thinks the world is God, and the natural objects around us are parts of God. If true, this too would seem to change the significance of our engagement with nature. In touching an acorn, you are literally touching God, just as one touches a cat by touching a part of the cat.
On the other hand, many atheists dislike the idea of God’s existence because they think God would limit our autonomy in undesirable ways. For such atheists, being surrounded by things made by God, or by things that are parts of God, might not be such a good thing. It might reasonably be experienced as making God’s infringement on our autonomy all the more vexing. Thus, whether the world being made by God would add value to our lives is at least complicated. God, World & Value explores these complications, and maps the ways God’s existence would or would not make our lives go better by way of His relations to the natural world.
The Non-Arbitrary Link Between Feeling and Value
Special edition of Philosophies, ed. Robert Cowan, forthcoming
This essay raises a challenge for the perceptual theory of emotion. According to the perceptual theory, emotions are perceptual states that represent values. But if emotions represent values, something should explain why. In virtue of what do emotions represent the values they do? A psychosemantics would answer this, and that’s what the perceptual theorist owes us. To date, however, the only perceptual theorist to attempt a psychosemantics for emotion is Jesse Prinz. And Prinz’s theory, I argue, faces an important difficulty: It makes the pairing of any given emotion with its respective value entirely arbitrary. But that’s a problem. It seems—and this is a major contention of this essay—that an emotion, in virtue of how it feels, bears a natural or non-arbitrary link to the value it represents. And this datum makes it all the more difficult to provide a viable psychosemantics for the evaluative content of emotion.
The Threat of Anti-Theism:
What is at Stake in the Axiology of God?
Philosophical Quarterly, 2023
Would God's existence be a good thing for us? According to anti-theism, the answer is No. Probably, many theists will want to reject anti-theism. But it isn’t obvious why. After all, whether p is good for us is logically independent from whether p is true. So anti-theism seems entirely compatible with theism. In this essay, however, I argue this seeming compatibility is mistaken. If anti-theism is true, then the theism of most practicing believers is false. And if I am right about this, then anti-theism presents a serious challenge to traditional theistic belief, notably theistic belief anchored in the Bible.
Christianity and the Life Story
Faith and Philosophy, 2021
According to narrativism, it is. in some way normatively important for us to understand our lives as narratives. Recently, narrativism has been the subject of vigorous debate, with advocates such as Connie Rosati and critics such as Galen Strawson. But what should Christian philosophers make of narrativism? In this paper, I argue that, in fact, narrativism is a commitment of Christian teaching. I argue that there are practices which Christians have decisive reasons to engage in, which require us to see our lives as narratives, practices such as confession and thanksgiving.
Content and the Fittingness of Emotion
Philosophical Quarterly, 2021
Many philosophers of emotion, whether perceptual theorists or cognitive theorists, have claimed that emotions represent evaluative properties. This is often supported by an appeal to the fittingness of emotion: That emotions can be fitting shows they represent evaluative properties. In this paper, however, I argue that this inference is much too fast. In fact, no aspect of the rational profile of emotion directly supports the claim that emotions represent evaluative properties. This argument can, however, be matured into an inference to the best explanation. But this requires coming to terms with a significant emerging rival, the attitudinal theory of emotion. In this paper, I show how this can be accomplished, and how to save the inference from fittingness to content.
The Epistemic Significance of Emotional Experience
Emotion Review, 2021
Many philosophers have claimed that emotional experience improves our epistemic standing with respect to value, and that it does so in a way that cannot be attained without emotional experience. In this paper, I provide a sustained argument for this thesis. I then argue that recent versions of the thesis fail to address crucial issues in a satisfactory way. Specifically, two pressing matters are: What exactly is the epistemic benefit that emotions provide, and second, in virtue of what do emotions provide it? I consider recent claims that emotions (a) facilitate attention, (b) share epistemically significant properties with sense perception, and (c) deepen evaluative understanding. I argue that neither of these views can explain the distinctive epistemic significance of emotion.
The Rationality of Faith and the Benefits of Religion
International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 2017
Religions don’t simply make claims about the world; they also offer existential resources, resources for dealing with basic human problems, such as the need for meaning, love, identity, and personal growth. For instance, a Buddhist’s resources for addressing these existential needs are different than a Christian’s. Now, imagine someone who is agnostic but who is deciding whether to put faith in religion A or religion B. Suppose she thinks A and B are evidentially on par, but she regards A as offering much more by way of existential resources. Is it epistemically rational for her to put her faith in A rather than B on this basis? It is natural to answer No. After all, what do the existential resources of a religion have to do with its truth? However, I want to argue that this is mistaken. My thesis is that the extent to which it is good for a certain religion to be true is relevant to the epistemic (rather than merely pragmatic) rationality of faith in that religion. This is plausible, I’ll argue, on the correct account of the nature of faith. I’ll argue (a) that faith requires some positive evaluation of the faith object; (b) that this positive evaluation is assessable for epistemic rationality, even if it is an affective or conative state; (c) that the overall epistemic rationality of faith depends on the epistemic rationality of its constitutive positive evaluation; and (d) that whether its constitutive positive evaluation is epistemically rational in some way depends on the quality of the existential resources the faith object (a religion or worldview) has to offer.
Value Beyond Monotheism: The Axiology of the Divine
ed. Kirk Lougheed (Routledge)
The International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, forthcoming
Ordered by Love: An Introduction to John Duns Scotus
by Thomas Ward (Angelico Press)
Cranmer Theological Journal, forthcoming
The Virtues of Limits
by David MacPherson (OUP)
Philosophical Quarterly, 2023
WORKS IN PROGRESS