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In the version of the low priors argument formulated below, the basicapproach described above is improved by comparing omni-theism, notsimply to its denial, but instead to a more specific atheistichypothesis called “source physicalism”. Unlike ontologicalphysicalism, source physicalism is a claim about the source of mentalentities, not about their nature. Source physicalists, whether theyare ontological physicalists or ontological dualists, believe that thephysical world existed before the mental world and caused the mentalworld to come into existence, which implies that all mental entitiesare causally dependent on physical entities. Further, even if they areontological dualists, source physicalists need not claim that mentalentities never cause physical entities or other mental entities, butthey must claim that there would be no mental entities were it not forthe prior existence (and causal powers) of one or more physicalentities. The argument proceeds as follows:

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Can the no arguments argument be construed as an argument for globalatheism? One might object that it is not, strictly speaking, anargument for any sort of atheism since its conclusion is not thatatheism is true but instead that there is good reason to believe thatatheism is true. But that is just a quibble. Ultimately, whether thisargument can be used to defend global atheism depends on how its firstpremise is defended.

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Notice too that, even if agnosticism were defined as the ratherextreme position that neither theistic belief nor atheistic beliefever has positive epistemic status of any sort, itwouldn’t follow by definition that no agnostic iseither a theist or an atheist. Some fideists, for example, believethat neither atheistic belief nor theistic belief is supported orsanctioned in any way at all by reason because reason leaves thematter of God’s existence completely unresolved. Yet they havefaith that God exists and such faith (at least in some cases) involvesbelief. Thus, some fideists are extreme agnostics in theepistemological sense even though they are not agnostics in thepsychological sense.

Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of the Supreme Being or deities


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The usual way of defending it is to derive it from some generalprinciple according to which lacking grounds for claims of a certainsort is good reason to reject those claims. The restriction of thisprinciple to claims “of a certain sort” is crucial, sincethe principle that the absence of grounds for a claim is in all casesa good reason to believe that the claim is false is rather obviouslyfalse. One might, for example, lack grounds for believing that thenext time one flips a coin it will come up heads, but that is not agood reason to believe that it won’t come up heads.

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A more promising approach restricts the principle to existence claims,thereby turning it into a version of Ockham’s razor. Accordingto this version of the principle, the absence of grounds supporting apositive existential statement (like “Godexists”—however “God” is understood) is a goodreason to believe that the statement is false (McLaughlin 1984). Oneobjection to this principle is that not every sort of thing is suchthat, if it existed, then we would likely have good reason to believethat it exists. Consider, for example, intelligent life in distantgalaxies (cf. Morris 1985).

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The basic idea behind the low priors argument is that, even if theagnostic is right that, when it comes to God’s existence, theevidence is ambiguous or absent altogether, what follows is not thattheism has a middling probability all things considered, but insteadthat theism is very probably false. This is said to follow becausetheism starts out with a very low probability before taking intoaccount any evidence. (“Evidence” in this context refersto factors extrinsic to a hypothesis that raise or lower itsprobability.) Since ambiguous or absent evidence has no effect on thatprior or intrinsic probability, the posterior or all-things-consideredprobability of theism is also very low. If, however, theism is veryprobably false, then atheism must be very probably true and thisimplies (according to the defender of the argument) that atheisticbelief is justified. (This last alleged implication is examined in section 7.)