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2010-11 Philosophy Speaker Series

Fall 2010

Dr. Kelly Clark, September 14, 2010

Dr. Ted A. Warfield, October 13, 2010

Dr. Caroline Simon, November 16, 2010

Dr. Scott MacDonald, December 2, 2010 - McManis Lecture

Tuesday September 14, 2010

Dr. Kelly Clark, Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College

"Explaining God Away?"

Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion and Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon claim that they have explained God away. What has turned God into a delusion? What has broken the spell of religion? In a few words: cognitive and evolutionary explanations of religious belief, in particular.  Science has shown us, or so it is claimed, that God is a collective illusion or a delusion fobbed off on us by our genes. Both agree that cognitive psychology reveals that humans have a god-faculty that naturally inclines all humans to believe in God. But the god faculty is, Dennett claims, a “fiction generating contraption” (Dennett, 2006: 120). Dawkins concurs: “The irrationality of religion is a by-product of a particular built-in irrationality mechanism in the brain” (Dawkins, The God Delusion: 184). How should Christians understand and respond to the Dawkins-Dennett challenge to the rationality of religious belief?

Wednesday October 13, 2010

Dr. Ted A. Warfield, Professor of Philosophy at University of Notre Dame

"Disagreeing about the Weather, God, and Other Important Topics"

How should one react when one's intellectual peers or superiors express disagreement on a particular topic? Philosophers have recently devoted considerable attention to this and other issues concerning the epistemology of disagreement. With a particular focus on the wide variety of topics about which people disagree and differences in the nature of various disputes, the primary recent approach to these issues is criticized and an alternative approach is presented and motivated.

Tuesday November 16, 2010

Dr. Caroline Simon, John and Heanne Jacobson Professor of Philosophy at Hope College

"Exploring C. S. Lewis' Many Loves"

A central theme of C. S. Lewis’s short book The Four Loves is that natural loves are God-given goods, yet are also prone to distortions—distortions so severe that Lewis calls them demonic—unless they are transformed by supernatural love. The Four Loves is a brief book that has been widely influential in part because it is readable and has the appearance of both common sense and insight. Yet the book raises various philosophical puzzles. The main puzzle examined this presentation is “How many kinds of love are there?” Lewis’s views on love will also be compared to those of several thinkers who influenced him: Augustine, Dante, Simone Weil, and Andre Nygren.

Thursday December 2, 2010

Dr. Scott MacDonald, Professor of Philosophy, Chair of the Sage School of Philosophy, and Norma K. Regan Professor in Christian Studies at Cornell University

"Medieval Philosophy and the Foundations of Christian intellectualism: How Augustine Made it Safe for Smart People to be Christians"

Puzzle: How did the religion of a largely uneducated Jewish splinter group in 1st-century Palestine become the dominant intellectual movement in a significant part of the world for nearly 2000 years? The answer critically involves Augustine who provided Christian thinkers with a sophisticated theoretical foundation for their attempts to use philosophical reasoning to understand, explain, and defend their Christian faith. Augustine thereby opened the way for the great medieval achievements of thinkers such as Anselm, Aquinas, and Scotus.

Spring 2011

Dr. Kyla Ebels-Duggan, January 25, 2011

Dr. Keith Yandell, February 16, 2011

Dr. Katherin Rogers, March 22, 2011 - McManis Lecture

Dr. Jeffrey Brower, April 12, 2011 - McManis Lecture

Tuesday January 25, 2011

Dr. Kyla Ebels-Duggan, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University

"Kant on Morality, Religion, and Purpose in Life"

Some people think that moral laws can be authoritative only if they are given to us as commands by God. Kant rejects this view, and holds that the truths of ethics do not depend on the truths of religion in this way. But he nevertheless believes that ethics “leads to” religion. Though he thinks that the authority of morality does not depend on God’s authority, Kant holds that the moral life would be absurd and perhaps unsustainable absent certain religious commitments.

Wednesday February 16, 2011

Dr. Keith Yandell, Professor of Philosophy of Religion at University of Wisconsin, Madison

"Is Buddhist Enlightenment Salvation?"

The Christian Gospel preaches forgiveness of sins through personal repentance and faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. The Buddhist message preaches release from suffering through detachment from the world and seeing the nature of the self to be as Buddhist doctrine asserts. Are Christian salvation and Buddhist enlightenment two sides of the same coin, or do they offer different currency? 

Tuesday March 22, 2011

Dr. Katherin Rogers, Professor of Philosophy at University of Delaware

"Anselm on Free Will"

Suppose a bit of bone pressing on your brain makes you do what you do. Are you free? Suppose a mad scientist manipulating the electrical impulses in your brain makes you do what you do. Should we hold you responsible? Suppose God makes you do what you do. Is it just for Him (or anyone) to reward and punish you? St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) answers, No!, No!, and NO!!! Anselm holds that we are indeed free and responsible and justly praised and blamed by God and at least some of what we do is not caused by anything or anyone outside ourselves including God. It follows that there are events uncaused by God. But God – at least in the traditional view that Anselm endorses – is the absolute source of everything that is not Himself. He keeps the whole world in being from moment to moment. Has Anselm contradicted himself? No, again! He provides a careful analysis of the nature of free will which solves the apparent paradox.

Tuesday April 12, 2011 

Dr. Jeffrey Brower, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Purdue University

"Aquinas on Human Personhood and Death"

As human beings, we possess both minds and bodies. But what is their nature and how are we related to them? Are we essentially material objects, immaterial persons, or partly material and partly immaterial beings? Christians have much to learn, I think, from the broadly Aristotelian approach that Aquinas takes to these questions. His approach not only provides us with an attractive alternative to the standard forms of materialism and dualism in philosophy of mind, but also offers us an intriguing set of options for what happens to us after death.