Forthcoming Events

International Conference on New Insights and Directions for Religious Epistemology

23-25 June, St Anne's College, Oxford University



Tuesday, 23 June


Richard Swinburne (Oxford)

"Phenomenal Conservatism and Religious Belief"


Peter van Inwagen (Notre Dame)
"The Rev'd Mr Bayes and the Life Everlasting"

Commenter: Jeff Sanford Russell (USC)


Paulina Sliwa (Cambridge)
"Show and Tell"


Wednesday, 24 June


Keith DeRose (Yale)
"How to Appear to Know that God Exists"

Commenter: Jane Friedman (NYU)


Hans Halvorson (Princeton)
"Foundations of the Fine-Tuning Argument"

Commenter: John Pittard (Yale)


Jennifer Lackey (Northwestern)
"What is Justified Group Belief?"


Thursday, 25 June


John Hawthorne (Oxford/USC)
"Fine-Tuning Fine-Tuning"


Richard Cross (Notre Dame)
"Testimony, Error, and the Reasonable Belief in Medieval Religious Epistemology"

Commenter: Christina Van Dyke (Calvin)


Roger White (MIT)
"Reasoning with Plenitude"


Attendance and registration for the conference is free. Registration will close on 29th May. To register, please send an email to Rachel Dunaway at insights@philosophy.ox.ac.uk.

Past Events  

Public Lecture

Alan Hájek (Australian National University)


21 May 2015, 4:30pm - 6:30pm, Colin Matthew Room, Radcliffe Humanities, Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford University

Title: 'Deliberation Welcomes Prediction'


Abstract: A number of prominent authorsLevi, Spohn, Gilboa, Seidenfeld, and Price among themhold that rational agents cannot assign subjective probabilities to their options while deliberating about which one they will choose. This has been called the "deliberation crowds out prediction" thesis. The thesis, if true, has important ramifications for many aspects of Bayesian epistemology, decision theory, and game theory. The stakes are high.

The thesis is not trueor so I maintain. After some scene-setting, I will precisify and rebut several of the main arguments for the thesis. I will defend the rationality of assigning probabilities to options while deliberating about them: deliberation welcomes prediction. I will also consider application of the thesis, and its denial, to Pascal's Wager.

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23 June 2014,  3pm - 6pm, Ryle Room, Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford University


Peter Graham (UC-Riverside)

Title: 'The Rational Basis of Testimonial Warrant'


I exposit and criticize Burge's justification for the Acceptance Principle for testimony. As a part of the justification, Burge claims that rational sources are reliable sources of truth, for a priori it is a function of reason to preserve, extend, and promote truth. Rational sources will then reliably preserve, extend, and promote truth in normal conditions when functioning normally. Recipients are then entitled to take another's presentation-as-true as true for presentations-as-true will be reliably true in normal conditions. The recipient's entitlement then has its basis in the rationality of the source. I criticize the justification on the grounds that capacities with functions in general do not reliably fulfill their functions in normal conditions when functioning normally a priori. I canvass an alternative social basis for testimonial warrant.

Mikkel Gerken (Edinburgh)

Title: 'Against Knowledge First Epistemology'


I begin by criticizing reductionist knowledge first epistemology according to which knowledge can be used to reductively analyze other epistemic phenomena. My central concern is that proponents of such an approach commit the same mistake that they charge their opponents with. This is the mistake of seeking to reductively analyze basic epistemic phenomena in terms of other allegedly more fundamental phenomena. I then turn to non-reductionist brands of knowledge first epistemology. Specifically, I consider the knowledge norms of assertion and contrast them with an alternative that I have developed (elsewhere Gerken 2011, 2012a, 2013b, 2014, forthcoming a, Ms a, b).

On the basis of the critical discussion, I question whether a knowledge first program that is both plausible and distinctive has been identified. On a more positive note, I sketch the contours of an alternative that I label ?holistic epistemology.? According to this approach (inspired by Strawson), there isn?t a single epistemic phenomenon or concept that is ?first.? Rather, there is a number of basic epistemic phenomena that are not reductively analyzable although they may be co-elucidated in a non-reductive manner. This approach preserves some grains of truth in knowledge first epistemology. For example, it preserves the idea that knowledge can be taken to be explanatorily basic and unanalyzable. However, since no single epistemic phenomenon is first, knowledge is not first.


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Public Lecture


Dean Zimmerman (Rutgers)

5 June 2014, 5pm - 7pm, Colin Matthew Room, Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford University


Title: 'Gratuitous Evils and a Maximally Morally Perfect Deity'


Abstract: William Rowe takes the following sort of argument to be sound:

1.   If there exists a God who is all-powerful and all-knowing an also maximally morally good and benevolent, there would be no gratuitous evils.

2.   There are some gratuitous evils (e.g., the painful death of this child; the suffering of this animal).

Therefore, there does not exist an all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good and benevolent God.

Peter van Inwagen claims that the first premise is false. Allowing gratuitous evils that one could prevent is consistent with being perfectly good and benevolent. He points to the likelihood that there are goods requiring some evil, although there is no minimal amount of the evil necessary to ensure a particular amount of the good. Creating worlds with such goods leads to gratuitous evils; but Rowe argues that a God creating such a world would be less than maximally morally good - a property allegedly incompatible with deity. Rowe's argument depends upon a kind of "expression principle" - a principle connecting psychological characteristics with their expression in action - that is dubious for beings capable of confronting infinitely many options. 


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Public Lecture

Richard Swinburne (Oxford)

6 May 2014, 5pm - 7pm, Lecture Room, Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford University

Title: 'The inevitable implausibility of physical determinism'


Abstract: Epiphenomenalism is the scientific theory that conscious events never cause physical events (and so intentions never cause brain events).  The Libet programme seeks to prove epiphenomenalism by showing that it never makes any difference to a sequence of brain events whether or not an intention occurs during the course of it. To show that, it needs to show when (relative to brain events) some intention occurs; and to show that it relies on the reports of subjects about when and whether they form any intention. But while we are always justified in believing claims based on apparent experience, memory, or testimony in the absence of defeaters, it is a defeater to any such claim that some event occurred, that the apparent experience, memory, or testimony was not caused by the event. So we would only be justified in believing these reports if we were justified in believing that the reports were caused by subjects' having an intention to make words come out of their mouths which correctly report their other intentions. So the programme to prove epiphenomenalism relies on evidence about subjects' intentions on which it would only be justified in relying if epiphenomenalism is false. Hence the programme is self-defeating; and so is any other programme purporting to show that we can have a justified belief in epiphenomenalism and so in the causal closure of the physical.


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Public Lecture 


Christina Van Dyke (Calvin)

10 February 2014, 10am-12pm, Seminar Room, Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford University 

Title: ‘Temporal Cognition of an Eternal Being? On Knowing God After Death’


Abstract: Union with the Divine (in some form or another) is the central goal of most religions.  Many religious traditions agree that the complete version of this state is attainable only after death, and that our efforts in this life serve primarily as preparation for that future state.  The prevailing assumption, however, is that we (or, at least some blessed few) will attain this union in the hereafter.  In this paper, I look more closely at this assumption, focusing in particular on traditions that advocate both an intellectualist understanding of this union and the doctrine of God's eternality (closely related to Divine Simplicity in the major monotheisms).  How can we make sense of the claim that human beings, even in their resurrected form, enjoy non-ending intellective union with an eternal being?  I will examine the idea (proposed by Thomas Aquinas, among others) that human beings cease to exist in time at the bodily resurrection, thereafter experiencing what is sometimes called 'sempiternality'--a halfway state between temporality and eternality.  I'll argue that sempiternality provides an interesting solution to the problem of how originally temporal beings might know an eternal being...but I'll also argue that this solution comes at a significant cost for those who think that our final end should involve the fulfillment rather than the transcendence of what it means to be human.


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Public Lecture

Duncan Pritchard (Edinburgh) - Cancelled

27 November 2013, 4pm-6pm, Lecture Room, Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford University 

Title: 'Wittgensteinian Quasi-Fideism'

Abstract: A moderate fideistic account of the epistemology of religious belief is offered, one that takes on board the account of the structure of reasons offered by Wittgenstein in On Certainty. Like standard forms of fideism, this position holds that the theist’s belief in God’s existence is lacking in rational support. Unlike standard forms of fideism, however, this position also holds that most religious beliefs can nonetheless enjoy rational support. 

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Public Lecture

Dan Howard-Snyder (Washington), "What is faith?" 

29 October 2013, 10am - 12pm, Seminar Room, Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford University 

Abstract. The word 'faith' stands for many different things. On this occasion, I focus on what is called 'propositional faith', the psychological attitude picked out by standard uses of the English locution 'S has faith that p', where p takes declarative sentences as instances, as in 'He has faith that his marriage will survive the present crisis'. Some people say that propositional faith is closely linked to propositional belief. More precisely, they say that faith that p just is belief that p of a certain sort, or that it requires belief that p, or that it is partly constituted by belief that p. This view is common enough; call it the Common View. I have two main aims: (i) to exhibit the falsity of the Common View, and (ii) to sketch a more accurate and comprehensive account of what propositional faith is.

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Philosophy, Evolution and the Human Sciences 

A seminar at Magdalen College, Oxford, organised by the Calleva Research Centre and New Insights in Religious Epistemology project

2 May 2013, 5pm

Daubeny Building (opposite the Porters’ Lodge)


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Reactions to 'From Goodness to God' (PDF)

6 December 2012, London School of Economics

"Crystal-clear and level-headed ... a serious alternative to the shrill irrationalism of both the new atheists and of religious fundamentalists" Prof John Milbank, University of Nottingham

"The challenge to secular worldviews is a formidable one, and Ritchie articulates it with considerable force and clarity" Prof John Hawthorne, University of Oxford


6.30pm - With Good Reason: A debate on the foundation of ethics - A Theos / LSE Public Forum on Religion Public event with Angus Ritchie, Julian Biaggini and Mark Vernon - Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, London School of Economics, Aldwych, London WC2B 4LF - All welcome

8pm - Drinks reception - Apex Temple Court, Serjeants' Inn, Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1LL

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