On Apologetics

"Why should/do I believe in God?" This is a question that is almost constantly being asked. Apologetics come up with elaborate arguments to convince people that God exists, or (more recently) to disprove the negative arguments of the New Atheists. This is all fine and good, however, transformation requires more than just clever arguments and the power of words. Good apologetics must be coupled with prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit for hearts to change. Below is an interesting sermon given by Australian theologian, Ben Meyers. He argues that at the center of Christianity is revelation, and it is by this revelation through Jesus Christ that we can believe in God. Think of Habermas and Licona's minimal facts approach and the fact that the disciples were transformed into boldness by what they had seen of the Resurrection. The incarnation of God in Jesus Christ is the greatest apologetic we have.

The VDB Report: Faith and Politics

The VDB Report
By Hendrik van der Breggen

I've been thinking about faith and politics lately. I have been spurred to think about these matters because I attended the recent Providence University College lecture series which featured the Hon. Rev. Bill Blaikie, a United-Church-minister-turned-MP-and-MLA plus able defender of "social gospel." Mr. Blaikie's overall lecture series was titled "God, Government, and Gospel: Christians and Politics." Individual lectures were titled "The Naked Public Square vs. the Naked Marketplace," "Market Fundamentalism: Idolatry and Inequality," and "Top Ten Scriptures for Faith and Public Life." There was also a panel discussion and Q&A. Having this highly respected parliamentarian speak at Providence was a coup for Providence, and the organizers of this lecture series are to be congratulated. Mr. Blaikie's talks were insightful and caring, and I encourage Philosophy Foosballers to learn from Mr. Blaikie's work. (Blaikie's book The Blaikie Report is available in the Providence Bookstore. More info about the lecture series can be found here.)

Here is what I've been thinking. There is a very real concern about the autonomy of the world's market economy, which Blaikie calls "the naked marketplace." According to Blaikie, the marketplace is morally naked, i.e., there is an absence of biblical values in the market economy, though there was at one time a biblical moral framework, as presupposed by Rev. Adam Smith in his famous book Wealth of Nations (1776). According to Blaikie, the market's emphasis on short-term contracts, individual self-fulfillment, and technical efficiency creates a "market mentality," and this market mentality eats away at the moral framework that Smith required for capitalism to function properly. Blaikie calls blind adherence to markets "market idolatry." The result: unjust economic practices and unjust social structures. To rectify these injustices, Blaikie sees an important role for a strong social-democratic government.

I agree that there are some unjust economic practices and unjust social structures, and I agree that there is generally an absence of biblical values in the market; therefore I think that criticism and correction of such injustices are appropriate. So I found myself sharing some important common ground with Blaikie (though we might disagree on the prevalence or extent of the injustices and on the nature of the political solutions).

But I also found myself wondering about several important questions (this wonder was triggered when Blaikie mentioned in passing that there are always people coming to politicians for various government spending favours, and when Prov's communication and media professor observed that though we often blame media for its sensational news coverage, the media tends to reflect or respond to what the larger population finds interesting). Here are my questions: In our growing desire to embrace government solutions to social problems, is there an unnoticed shuffling of a general human moral problem—concerning greed and desire for power—from one human social structure to another human social structure? If the market can become an idol, cannot the government—even a democratic government—become an idol too? In the general absence of biblical values in our society, what keeps us from shifting from a market fundamentalism to a government fundamentalism?

These questions are important, it seems to me, because the social structures of a society, whether they are marketplace structures or government structures, are spawned by the hearts and minds of the people who constitute society—and therefore will tend to reflect those hearts and minds. Significantly, in post-Christian Canada the many people who constitute government along with the many people who purport to hold government to account share values that tend not to be biblical moral values.

Two days after the Providence lecture series, while I was listening to the radio during my morning drive to Providence, I heard a fellow from Ottawa's National House of Prayer say this: "[I]t's not the system that's broke, but rather the people inside that need help. Our problem is moral, not economical."

I would venture to say that the problem is both moral and economical—and spiritual. Just as there is an absence of biblical values in the many people who govern society via markets (e.g., large corporations, consumers) and so unjust socio-economic structures tend to emerge, there is also an absence of biblical values in the many people who would wish to govern the markets via government (e.g., politicians, voters) and so unjust governance also tends to emerge.

How then do we transform people spiritually to hold biblical values? Enter: the Gospel.

I asked Mr. Blaikie about the role of the Gospel in personal transformation of a society's individual members, and he responded that basically the Gospel is a given in his understanding of the social gospel. He mentioned (if I remember correctly) that he came from a church where people would testify to how God saved them from their "personal demons" such as, say, alcoholism. Mr. Blaikie also remarked that he never saw any capitalist CEOs come to church and testify about their repentance from the sin of greed. I didn't pursue my question further, because I thought Mr. Blaikie's answer was a good one (and I'm not a quick thinker). But over the past few days I've been thinking (slowly but surely). It turns out that I am one of those people who had an alcohol "demon" (and other demons) and I've testified in church to God's deliverance from such personal demons. Like Blaikie, in the churches I attended I didn't see any CEOs confess and repent from their greed. I would add, though, that I also didn't see any politicians and government bureaucrats stand up and confess and repent from their sins of power-mongering, misspending of government funds, or general abuse of the people's trust.

I don't wish to come across as cynical. I'm sure that there are decent and honourable politicians who strive to do politics for the common good. Bill Blaikie is certainly one of them, and I would add Vic Toews and others to my list. But I'm also sure that there are decent and honourable capitalists who strive to do business for the common good too. Some businessmen and businesswomen associated with Providence quickly come to mind.  (On the topic of business for the common good, a helpful video discussion is "Ethics in the Marketplace," which is part 5 of Charles Colson and Robert George's Doing the Right Thing: A Six-Part Exploration of Ethics.  A helpful book on this topic is Kenman Wong and Scott Rae's Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace.)

My point is this: We must be careful to diagnose problems correctly. If social structural problems are unjust and require social structural solutions, then I say "Amen!" to such solutions (though we might argue about the best way to administer the solution). But as far as external social solutions go, I think they never really can go far enough.

Allow me to be personal here (once again). I tend toward introspection. I think that the philosophical quip "know thyself" is important. Significantly, in my personal life I have found that my very ability to discern the good plus be motivated to do good (especially when it's not in my apparent self-interest) was enhanced not by a social solution, but by soul surgery. I grew up with social gospel. But it wasn't until (at age 30) I accepted that Jesus is truly God in the flesh, that Jesus died on the cross to reconcile the sinful world to God, and that Jesus actually resurrected to show that death and sin do not have the last word—it wasn't until I realized this message was true—that my heart and mind were renewed and I became more concerned about others than about myself. Some would use the words "spiritual awakening" or "born again" to describe my experience.

In other words, I've been thinking this: In our embrace of what's true and good in the social gospel, let's be sure that we never forget to continually embrace what's true and good in the Gospel message that centers on Jesus' life, death, and bodily resurrection. Take some time to reread John 3:16 (and maybe read theologian Michael Wittmer's book Don't Stop Believing: Why Living Like Jesus is Not Enough). I'm quite sure that without the Gospel up close and personal, the social gospel withers. I'm quite sure too that with the Gospel up close and personal—that is, in the hearts and minds of the larger population—the appropriately social dimensions of the Gospel will flourish in a democratically governed society as they morally ought.

What do Philosophy Foosballers think?

- Dr. V

P.S. When it comes to discussions of faith and politics, we should keep in mind that the proclamation of the life-transforming and eternally-significant Gospel message of salvation from sin through Christ requires religious freedom. This is a freedom that includes freedom of speech. As noted a couple of weeks ago by Philosophy Foosball Club blogmaster Ryan Turnbull, the issue of freedom of speech concerning religious matters is presently before the Supreme Court of Canada. I think it's important to realize that such freedom includes the freedom to evangelize—i.e., the freedom to share, explain, intellectually defend one's faith—a freedom that sometimes requires stating (respectfully) some uncomfortable truths about sin. Regardless of whether the sin is stereotypically a concern of Christians on the political left (e.g. sin having to do with social inequality, unfair economic distribution, environmental abuse) or stereotypically a concern of Christians on the political right (e.g. sin having to do with abortion, embryonic stem cell research, sex), we should pray that religious freedom prevails. We should not pray that our government engages in evangelism; we should pray that our government protects the freedom to evangelize—i.e., our freedom to carry out Christ's great commission in all of the dimensions of life.

New Atheism... yawn

 I'm really glad that people notice the fact that the New Atheists really don't have a whole lot going for them. It's not just that I think they're wrong, they're just really mediocre and boring, give me Friedrich Nietzche or Bertrand Russell. Here is an interesting article on Dawkins' continued cowardice.

Christian Apologist at U of M

The Christian scholar-scientist Kirk Durston will be speaking at the U of Manitoba on Thursday and Friday (October 20 and 21).  Kirk Durston, B.Sc. (Mechanical Engineering), B.Sc. (Physics), M.A. (Philosophy), Ph.D. (Biophysics), is a philosophically astute scientist, with a heart for serving God in the academy.  Durston is also the national director of the New Scholars Society (an affiliation of Canadian university professors who are Christians).

Lecture topics:

- Is God relevant today?
- Can an intellectual believe in God?
- Why does God allow evil and suffering?

For more information, contact Campus for Christ.

Discussion Topic for this week.

Last meeting we decided to discuss the question, "Is it ever ok for a Christian to purposely cause an altered state of consciousness on oneself?" This is an interesting and I think important question in an age where drugs, alcohol, and other mind altering substances are readily available and widely used in our culture. Hope to see everyone out tomorrow to discuss this important question for Christian living.


In light of the current Supreme Court Case dealing with the issue of Religious Freedom and Freedom of speech I think it is crucial to review the concept of Tolerance. I will be presenting a van der Breggenian distinction of two senses of Tolerance and the fallacy of equivocation that so often results.

Tolerance Sense 1:
All views are equal, we can't judge any view as being better than any other view, some views are just different than others. We somehow must agree with everyone.

Tolerance Sense 2:
Some views are better than others. I disagree with view Y because I think view X is better, but I still love and tolerate all persons who hold view Y even though I think they are wrong.

Everyone understands that we should practice tolerance as a virtue. However the tolerance that is referred to is T2 which somehow gets morphed into T1. This is faulty because there are inherent logical contradictions that come with T1 that demonstrate that this view of Tolerance should be rejected. T2 is the way to go, "Be egalitarian in regards to people but elitist in regards to ideas".

Religious Freedom in Canada

This Wednesday, October 12, a very important case is coming before the Supreme Court of Canada. They will be exploring these two issues:

1) Can Christians preach and teach against what we believe to be a sinful behaviour--a behaviour that we believe ultimately harms the person involved--but still love the person?
2) Can Christians be critical--in public--of the activities of a person or community without this criticism being understood as hatred?

The EFC will be presenting arguments to defend our right to religious freedom. Please pray that truth and justice would prevail and that our Canadian right to religious freedom is maintained. See here for more information.

Euthyphro Dilemma in 1 minute


The Euthyphro Dilemma is often set out as an objection to the relevancy of God for ethics.  Here is The One Minute Apologist with philosopher William Lane Craig who provides an overview of the dilemma plus a critique -- all in 1 minute.  (Actually, 2 minutes and 12 seconds.)  Happy philosophical pondering!

- Dr. V

Critical Thinking Fail

Today as I wandered around on Facebook I stumbled across a picture of a sign that read:
"Religion is like a penis.
It's fine to have one.
It's fine to be proud of it
But please don't whip it out in public and start waving it around,
And PLEASE don't try to shove it down my children's throats."

At first I was a little disgusted and annoyed, but then my training under VDB kicked in and some philosophical rubber hit the road, if you will.

What this sign is in essence saying, underneath the crass vulgarity, is that it is ok to have beliefs and even to be proud of those beliefs, but it is not ok to share them ever. "That's just your opinion man" kind of attitude. The ironic part is that the very thing that this sign complains about, i.e., forcing others to buy into one's opinion; is exactly what this sign is doing. It is trying to make everyone buy into this idea that it is not ok to ram opinions down people's throats by ramming an opinion down our throats.

This sign can safely be ignored.

"180" Movie

A bit polemical but it is interesting to see that when confronted with the fact that an unborn child is a human life, people get extremely uncomfortable.

Peter Hitchens Author Interview--The Rage Against God

The Rage Against God is an excellent book and is available in the Providence Bookstore.

Biology and the Christian Tradition

As many of us are aware, one of the major weapons used by atheists against religion is that of science; specifically evolutionary biology. Well, no more, St. Margaret's, as usual, is jumping out there to engage with cultural phenomenon and explain how it relates to the Christian truth. On September 24th they are having a lecture series to explore Biology and the Christian Tradition. See here for more details. Contact myself (Ryan Turnbull) if you are interested in going to this event and we may be able to get a car load together from Prov as a PFC event.

Alvin Plantinga

Blogmaster Emeritus, Mark Jensen, recently posted a series of videos of philosopher Alvin Plantinga on his blog, Dining With the Queen. I have been watching through them and enjoying them immensely. This clip below is on properly basic beliefs. Plantinga suggests that it is proper to assume God just as we assume that there are other minds or that the past really happened. I hope you enjoy this thoughtful video.

Interesting book...

Truth Considered & Applied: Examining Postmodernism, History, and Christian Faith
by Stewart E. Kelly

Here is a book that should be of interest to philosophy, theology, and history students, as well as perhaps everybody else.  The author, Stewart E. Kelly, is professor of Philosophy at Minot State University.  More information about the book can be found here.

- Dr. V

Assisted suicide not dead yet.

Today as I was listening to the CBC it was mentioned that courts in BC are once again battling over the issue of Physician Assisted Suicide. For more reading check here. Canadians currently have a right to life, it does not follow from that right that we can decide when to end our lives. What are your thoughts on this folks?


Horn of Africa food crisis. Somalis fleeing hunger in their drought-stricken nation walk along the main road leading from the Somalian border to the refugee camps around Dadaab, Kenya, on Wednesday, July 13. More than 11 million people in the Horn of Africa are confronting the worst drought in decades and need urgent assistance to stay alive, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. (Rebecca Blackwell / AP)

Helping East Africa

We can help East Africa in various ways. Here are a few: Canadian Red Cross, Compassion Canada, International Justice Mission, International Needs Network, Samaritan's PurseWorld Vision. Prayer is important, too. Christ is our hope and strength.

- Dr. V

P.S. On the philosophical problem of evil and suffering, my August 27 2009 Apologia column titled "Pointless Evil Versus God's Existence?" might be of interest to readers. It's certainly not the last word on the matter, but it's food for thought. Also, an important book is philosopher William A. Dembski's The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World. A couple of more recent, also important books are these: Norman Geisler's If God, Why Evil? plus David Baggett and Jerry Walls' Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality.

Summer 2011 Philosophy Foosball Club Dinner

The Summer 2011 Philosophy Foosball Club Dinner occurred!  At one point the guest list consisted of 14 current or former Providence students/ employees.  Dinner was great (many thanks to Mrs. VDB). Subsequent philosophical discussion (about art and beauty), games (foosball, crokinole, bocce ball), and book crawl were great too!  See below for photos.

Summer 2011 PFC Dinner Photos


Important Notice:

Dr. V will be hosting a Dinner at his place on Saturday, July 9th at 5:30. For anybody who has been in attendance at one of these before, you know the good times that are sure to happen.

For those planning to attend, please RSVP by email to Dr. V by Friday, noon at the latest.

Hope to see you all there!


This past winter I took a Critical Thinking class at Providence, (a must take for pretty much anyone who wants to think properly) and learned a lot. However, it has become nearly impossible for me to take seriously some people's poorly reasoned arguments when they are so full of fallacies. I thought I would provide you members of PFC with a list of fallacies so that you will be better able to reason properly and show the truth of Jesus Christ in a reasonable and logical fashion.

1. Ad Hominem
     - Attacking the person instead of his/her argument

2. Affirming the Consequent
     - A corruption of the logical form Modus Ponens, where one sets it out P->Q; Q therefore P instead of the proper form P->Q; P therefore Q.

3. Anecdotal Argument
     - A premise that describes a story or anecdote is used to infer a general point in a hasty manner.

4. Appeals to Authority, Fear, Pity, Popularity, and Tradition
     - Using an appeal to any of the above as a premise when doing so is invalid.

5. Begging the Question
     - Assuming as proven that which is at issue, I recently saw a beautiful example of this, "Murder and revenge are inherently morally wrong and never justified. Therefore, capital punishment is morally wrong and is never justified."

6. Causal Slippery Slope
     - An argument that claims that if one causal event goes through it will trigger a causal chain that will end in calamity, but this slippery slope is usually unfounded and merely a projection of the arguer's fears rather than having any basis in truth.

7. Composition
     - Arguing from the parts to the whole, i.e., these parts have property x therefore the whole being must have property x.

8. Confirmation Bias
     - Only acknowledging evidence that lends positive support to one's argument and disregarding all negative evidence.

9. Confusing Correlation and Cause
      - The fallacious assumption that because two things have a positive correlation, event A must cause event B, i.e., a survey of a class reveals that there is a strong correlation between large foot size and high grades, the assumption then is that large foot size causes high grades which is fallacious.

10. Denying the Antecedent
       - A corruption of the logical form Modus Tollens (proper form is P -> Q; ~Q therefore ~P) which is instead laid out as P->Q; ~P therefore ~Q which is wrong.

11. Division
       - Arguing from the whole to the parts, ie, the whole has property y therefore the parts have property y.

12. Equivocation
       - When a key word in the premises is used in multiple senses and the conclusion is derived from this ambiguity. A fun example: "Nothing is better than sex, philosophy is better than nothing, therefore, philosophy is better than sex."

13. False Dichotomy
      - A statement claiming either x or y when x or y do not exhaust all the possible options, a famous example of this is the Euthyphro Dilemma

14. Faulty Analogy
       - When an analogy between two items are two superficial to support a conclusion, this was an alleged critique of Paley's watch analogy.

15. Guilt by Association
       - Using a supposed link between an individual and a group or other individual of ill repute to cast a poor reflection upon said individual.

16. Hasty Inductive Generalization
        - "A hasty inductive generalization occurs when a person generalizes from a single anecdote or experience, or from a sample that is too small or too unrepresentative to support his conclusion." (Govier 382)

17. Ignorance
      - Occurs when because of a lack of knowledge about a proposition, one makes an assertion about it, by pointing to the lack of evidence against that assertion as proof.

18. Objectionable Cause
       - Asserting that even A caused even B when other interpretations of the available data have not been ruled out.

19. Our Side Bias
       - "Selective application of principles and norms so as to treat one's own side more leniently than the other side." (Govier, 383)

20. Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
       - The false assumption that just because event B came after event A, event A must have caused it.

21. Slippery Precedent
       - A case that on its own is good, but if permitted, could lead to a number of bad conclusions.

22. Straw Man
       - Misrepresenting an opponent's argument and making a weakened version of it which is then easily defeated.

23. Tu Quoque
       - A type of ad hominem fallacy in which you reject a person's argument because they are guilty of the same thing they argue against. I.e., a smoker saying don't smoke and listing reasons for doing so, if one replies, "Well you do it", one has committed the tu quoque fallacy.

24. Two Wrongs make a Right
       - an attempt to convince someone that they should allow one wrong thing because something else equally as wrong is common practice.

25. Vagueness
       - an argument that uses language that is unclear as to its meaning. The language is so vague that it is impossible to determine the veracity of it.

This list was taken from Trudy Govier's "A Practical Study of Argument" and more detail on these fallacies can be found on pages 378 to 385.

May we all strive to reason carefully in glorifying our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Dawning of a New Era

Hello fellow philosophers!

I, Ryan Turnbull, am your new Philosophy Foosball Club Blogmaster. I thought to kick things off I would give you a brief introduction to the man who's mediocre ramblings you will be forced to endure throughout the next year or so.

I am eighteen years old, from Russell MB and have been a Christian for the larger portion of that time. I grew up on a farm and attended an Alliance Church which is how I learned of Providence. I graduated from Major Pratt School in 2010 and headed to Prov that fall. I began working towards a BA in Biblical and Theological Studies, and hope to graduate in 2013.

As for my philosophical interests, those began in grade 11 when I took a week-long enrichment class at the U of W, it was really interesting, but really frustrating because everyone else was an atheist. I came to Prov and ended up taking 4 philosophy courses and joining the PFC. I have to admit that Dr. V has contributed immensely to my understanding of philosophy and how I view the world. Truth matters folks.

I have a special love for apologetics, not necessarily searching out people to debate with, but knowing why I believe and what I believe, so that, if necessary I may give a defense for my faith. I'm especially interested in ethics, or morality, the nature of good and evil and the like.

I still have much to learn, as do we all, I hope this next year of blogging, discussing, and foosball playing will be great fun and will lead us into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, and give us a greater understanding of some answers to the most important questions.

New Blogmaster!


It is my privilege to make two announcements on behalf of the Philosophy Foosball Club blog:

1. Jordan Byggdin has graduated from Providence College (congratuations Jordan!) and has retired as our blogmaster (we will miss you).  Jordan Byggdin will henceforth be known as PFC blogmaster emeritus, joining our first blogmaster Mark Jensen in holding this prestigious title (only two persons in all of history hold this title).

2. Ryan Turnbull has accepted the position of blogmaster (three cheers for Ryan!).  We look forward to having Ryan at the helm of the PFC blog.

- Dr. V

Who is Ayn Rand?

For some interesting summer-time listening and reading about the popular philosophy of Ayn Rand (1905-1982), whose book Atlas Shrugged has recently become a movie, check out Clayton Jones, D.Min.  (Jones is assistant professor of apologetics at Biola University.)

Radio interview on Issues, Etc. (April 15, 2011):
Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged"

Blog posts:
Ayn Rand & Atlas Shrugged: Introduction
Ayn Rand: The Good
Ayn Rand: The Bad
Ayn Rand: The Ugly Self-Esteem Movement
Ayn Rand: The Ugly—Rejection of Oversight

- Dr. V


For an apologia for philosophy, see what Maverick Philosopher has to say here.

- Dr. V

Most Valuable Player

To whom will the 2010-11 Philosophy Foosball Club MOST VALUABLE PLAYER AWARD go?  Find out at the PFC lunch on Wednesday, April 6, 2011. (Note: No mug will be awarded; the mug photo is for attention-grabbing only.)

Update (April 6, 2011): This year's recipient of the PFC MVP Award is Jordan Byggdin.  Congratulations Jordan!

Update (April 11, 2011): This year's recipient of The Philosophy Award is David Ward.  Congratulations David!

- Dr. V

Helping Japan

BBC News Asia-Pacific photo: Japan earthquake and tsunami (March 11, 2011)


We can help Japan in various ways.  Here are a few: Canadian Red Cross, Compassion Canada, CRASH Japan, World Vision.  Prayer is important, too.  Christ is our hope and strength.

- Dr. V

P.S. My August 27 2009 Apologia column titled "Pointless Evil Versus God's Existence?" might be of interest to readers. It's certainly not the last word on the matter, but it's food for thought. Also, an important book is philosopher William A. Dembski's The End of Christianity:Finding a Good God in an Evil World.

Trends in Christian Philosophy Books

This month Zondervan is publishing Four Views on Divine Providence. It is the most recent book in their growing "Counterpoints" series. If you're not familiar with this series, it consists of books on various important topics in philosophy and theology, with several authors of differing viewpoints each contributing a chapter. These books are designed to give readers an overview of the various Christian perspectives on an issue, and allow them to make up their own mind on which is the best position. (Brazos Press has also recently published a book in a similar vein, entitled Christianity and the Postmodern Turn: Six Views.) The Counterpoints series has three sub-series:
I confess that I like these kind of "multi-perspective" books because they feature top-notch scholarship and promote civil dialogue amongst Christians. They teach us how to disagree, and how to consider opposing views instead of dogmatically ignoring a view you don't agree with. They help avoid the straw person fallacy, foster critical thinking, and demonstrate that Christian unity doesn't require uniformity on every topic.

Still, it's interesting to think about what the popularity of these kind of books signals about Christianity in the 21st century. After all, it's hard to imagine the Counterpoints series being published one hundred years ago. Is it possible to interpret the success of these books as a result of the pluralistic contemporary culture that Western Christianity exists within, a culture that loves "perspectives"? Or to see them as an example of the fractured or branched nature of the church?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that while I'm looking forward to reading some of these books, I'm also curious about the changes within the Western Christian subculture, and in the larger Western culture, that led to a desire for these kind of books.


The Smiths

Today at PFC lunch we once again discussed topics arising from James K. A. Smith's book, Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006). For those interested, Smith was recently interviewed on the EPS blog. He has some intriguing things to say that are helpful for understanding his position. Amongst other things, Smith discusses the difference between knowledge and understanding, "affections" and "philosophical intuitions" versus feelings and emotions, and the concept of worldview.

Today at PFC lunch we also discussed the relationship between metaphysics and epistemology. Here is the original Christian Smith quote that caused me to bring up this topic:
Critical realism seeks to offer a constructive framework for understanding science that is alternative to both the positivist empiricist paradigm, on the one hand, and constructivism, postmodernism, and certain versions of the hermeneutical perspective, on the other . . .
Critical realism's central organizing thought is that much of reality exists independently of human consciousness of it . . . [and] that humans can acquire a truthful, though fallible knowledge and understanding of reality through various forms of disciplined conceptualization, inquiry, and theoretical reflection . . .
In critical realism, to spell out a few specifics, ontology (the study of being) is prioritized over epistemology (the study of what and how we can know) -- a move that feels alien to us moderns and postmoderns who naturally prioritize epistemology, but which we nevertheless must make presuppositionally in order to get anywhere worth going in science [and philosophy]. That which is cannot be immediately constrained by limits on the knowable of it. First we come to terms with what we believe is and what it is like, then we examine the possibilities for knowing about it. According to critical realism, the real is not coterminal with the empirical. So, we must distinguish among the three aspects of the real, the actual, and the empirical. The real is what exists -- material, nonmaterial, and social entities that have structures and capacities. The real exists whether we know or understand it. The real possesses objective being apart from human awareness of it. The actual by contrast, is what happens as events in the world, when objects that belong to the real activate their powers and capacities. The actual happens in time and space, whether we experience it or not. The empirical, by contrast, consists of what we experience, either directly or indirectly. Thus, what we observe (the empirical) is not identical to all that happens (the actual), and neither is identical to that which is (the real). The three must not be conflated.
Christian Smith, What is a Person? Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 92-93.

Polkinghorne Podcast

There are a whole host of Christian thinkers who have written books on the relationship between science and religion, though I have found none more helpful than Sir John Polkinghorne (and Alister McGrath). Those currently enrolled in Dr. V's Philosophy of Science course may be interested in this recent podcast interview with Polkinghorne, entitled "Quarks and Creation" (53 mins, transcript here if you prefer to read it). Here's the description:
Science and religion are often pitted against one another; but how do they complement, rather than contradict, one another? We learn how one man applies the deepest insights of modern physics to think about how the world fundamentally works, and how the universe might make space for prayer.

Caffeine Ergo Sum

Is it just me or is there a mysterious link between philosophy and hot beverages? Perhaps hot drinks are inherently stimulating (hence the phrase "steeped in thought," perhaps). I certainly drink much more tea and coffee since I began studying philosophy at Providence. I'm even willing to assert that the development and spread of Western philosophy bears an uncanny resemblance to the expanding global trade of coffee and tea in centuries past (I think this would make for a research great paper next time Dr. V teaches History of Philosophy).

Socrates was known to meditate all day in the snow, though he probably came inside for some hot chocolate from time to time. Descartes couldn't have stayed holed up in that Bavarian cabin for very long without a nice relaxing cup of piping hot tea at the end of each day. Legend has it that Aquinas strode the damp, chilly streets of medieval Paris with a travel mug in hand. Schopenhauer was probably so gloomy because nobody ever brewed the poor guy a decent cup of coffee. And Sartre certainly didn't hang out in that coffee shop for the free wireless internet.

This phenomenon continues on in modern times. In fact, Christopher Hitchens has recently written a brief (and thoroughly English) article entitled "How To Make a Decent Cup of Tea." Providence's own Dr. V has been known to frequent Lecoka in Steinbach, as has yours truly (I recommend their vanilla bean cappuccino). Yes indeed, it certainly seems that hot beverages are conducive to philosophical thought.

Continuing this long and fruitful relationship between philosophy and hot drinks, this semester the Philosophy Foosball Club will be meeting on odd-dated Wednesdays in the Providence cafeteria at noon, beginning January 19th. The cafeteria has a fine array of Lipton teas, and surprisingly decent coffee (they also serve lunch). Hope to see you there!