The primary theme of my research is the "openness" of the future, which we intuitively tend to contrast with the "fixity" or "settledness" of the past. Most obviously, the future is epistemically open for us in that we do not know with certainty how things are going to play out. More interesting, however, is the question of whether there is such a thing as "how things in general are going to play out." I don't believe there is. In some particular cases there may be a fact of the matter as to what is going to happen, but not in general. Most of my papers below explore and defend this idea with to the nature of time, truth, causation, human freedom, and divine knowledge and providence.
Work In Progress
- Review of J. P. Moreland, C. Meister, & K. A. Sweis (Eds.), Debating Christian Theism (Oxford University Press, 2013) for Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
- "On the Open Road Again: Reply to Hunt and Craig"
A response to David Hunt and William Lane Craig's 2013 critique ("Perils of the Open Road") of my 2006 coauthored paper “Open Theism, Omniscience, and the Nature of the Future.” I respond to the charges of their rather uncharitable and poorly researched critique and take advantage of the opportunity to clarify my views on the openness of the future.
- "Five Roads to Fatalism and the Openness of the Future"
I develop a novel approach to fatalistic arguments, which starts by looking for the minimal set of assumptions needed to construct any valid fatalistic argument. I contend that only two substantive assumptions are needed: (a) the existence of a ‘future specifier’ (something the existence of which specifies a unique and complete sequences of events as "the" actual future) and (b) its explanatory independence from any future contingents. If this is right, then there are only two basic anti-fatalistic strategies. "Open future" responses to fatalism deny that there are any future specifiers, whereas "preventable future" responses affirm the explanatory dependence of future specifiers upon the actual occurrences of future contingent events. I show how these two strategies play out with respect to fatalistic arguments in five different domains: causal, ontic, alethic, epistemic, and providential.
- "A Dilemma for Molinism"
In this paper I apply my analysis of fatalism from the preceding paper to set forth a novel problem for Molinism, a popular scheme that attempts to reconcile future contingency with a robust, omni-controlling model of divine providence. I argue that, as standardly understood, Molinism concedes both key fatalistic assumptions and as such entails fatalism. The only way out is via the "preventable future" strategy, but this has the unacceptable (to Molinists) consequence of taking the providential oomph out of Molinism, leaving it providentially on par with simple foreknowledge and open theistic models.
- “Property Variation over Continua”
Here I generalize Aristotle’s problem of starting and stopping, namely, if an object begins to move, does it have a last instant of rest, a first instant of motion, both, or neither? When the problem is generalized, all of the possible answers have very counterintuitive consequences. I then examine responses to the problem based on three different mathematical analyses of continua (standard, non-standard, and smooth), and argue, following Peirce and Brentano, that spatial and temporal continua are best thought of as smooth manifolds.
- “Foreknowledge and Fatalism: Why Divine Timelessness Doesn’t Help,” in L. Nathan Oaklander (Ed.), Debates in the Metaphysics of Time (London: Continuum, 2014).
In this paper I analyze the problem of divine foreknowledge and creaturely freedom as a specific instance of the more general problem of fatalism. I argue that for any valid argument for fatalism there are only two possible solutions. One is to say that God’s foreknowledge does not single out any possible future, any unique and complete sequence of post-present events, as the actual future. This is the ‘open future’ solution. The other possible solution is to say that God’s foreknowledge is explanatorily dependent upon the actual occurrences of future contingent events. This is the ‘preventable future’ solution. It is on this solution that I here focus my attention and consider its bearing on the doctrine of divine timelessness and on matters of temporal ontology. I argue that divine timelessness doesn’t help the anti-fatalist. While it does not itself entail fatalism, it blocks preventable futurism, which is the anti-fatalist’s only hope for reconciling future contingency with a traditional conception of divine foreknowledge.
- “Open Theism and Other Models of Divine Providence,” in Jeanine Diller and Asa Kasher (Eds.), Models of God and Alternative Ultimate Realities (Springer, 2013).
This paper is a significant revision and expansion of my 2008 paper "Generic Open Theism and Some Varieties Thereof". Here I carefully define open theism and compare/contrast it with theological determinism, Molinism, and process theism along three dimensions: (a) whether providence is ‘meticulous’ or ‘general’; (b) whether God’s causal activity vis-à-vis creation is always efficacious, always merely ‘persuasive’, or only sometimes efficacious and sometimes persuasive; and (c) whether God’s providential activity is unavoidably ‘constrained’ by contingent or external realities. With respect to (a), open theism is most similar to process theism. With respect to (b), open theism is most similar to Molinism. With respect to (c), open theism is most similar to theological determinism.
- “In Defense of Weak Inferential Internalism: Reply to Alexander,” Journal of Philosophical Research 37 (2012): 379–385.
A defense of my 2008 paper "Fumerton’s Principle of Inferential Justification, Skepticism, and the Nature of Inference". Alexander dubs my position ‘weak inferential internalism’ (WII) and charges that it collapses into externalism. In response I argue that WII is compatible with inferential internalism and non-inferential externalism. WII is opposed to ‘strong’ externalism, but not ‘moderate’ externalism, so the charge has no bite to it.
- “Peirce and Lonergan on Inquiry and the Pragmatics of Inference,” International Philosophical Quarterly 51 (2011): 181–194.
Drawing on the work of both Charles Peirce and Bernard Lonergan, I argue that Peirce's three main categories of inference deductive, inductive, and abductive are not to be distinguished formally but functionally. Each type of inference plays a different role in a larger process of inquiry and answers a different type of question.
- “The Fivefold Openness of the Future,” in William Hasker, Dean Zimmerman, and Thomas Jay Oord (Eds.), God in an Open Universe: Science, Metaphysics, and Open Theism (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2011), pp. 69–93.
In this paper I distinguish five senses in which the openness of the future can be understood (causal, ontic, alethic, epistemic, and providential), explore their interconnections, and argue that if the future is causally open, then it is open in the other four senses as well.
- “Gratuitous Evil and Divine Providence,” Religious Studies 46 (2010): 281–302.
My objective in this paper is to assess how much relative pressure the evidential argument from evil puts on four different models of divine providence (theistic determinism, Molinism, open theism, and process theism). To establish a basis for comparison, I first argue that in light of its functional role in the evidential argument, ‘gratuitous evil’ should be understood in a way that makes the premise that ‘If God exists, then there are no gratuitous evils’ uncontroversial. With that premise established, models of providence can be evaluated in terms how plausibly they can deny that gratuitous evils exist. After examining these four models of providence, I conclude that, all other things equal, models that deny meticulous providence stand in a much better position with respect to the problem of evil.
- “Probability, Truth, and the Openness of the Future: A Reply to Pruss,” Faith and Philosophy 27 (2010): 197–204.
In this paper I respond to a serious challenge to the alethic openness thesis that appeals to the distribution of credences (degrees of belief) over the principle that p→Tp. I argue here that the latter principle is false (in intensional contexts). In other words, believing to degree x that p does not commit one to believing to degree x that it is true that p; rather, in accord with David K. Lewis’ famous Principal Principle, it only commits one to believing that p has chance x of becoming true.
- “Presentism, Truthmakers, and God,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 90 (2009): 41–62.
In this paper I discuss and respond to the truthmaker objection against presentism. I first identify several criteria that an adequate response must satisfy to ensure that truths about the past behave as we think they should. I then canvass the main responses to date (ersatzism, Lucretianism, and haecceitism) and show that they all fail to meet one or more of the criteria. Finally, I develop and defend the position that God’s memories provide truthmakers for truths about the past.
- “Beyond the Chessmaster Analogy: Game Theory and Divine Providence,” in Thomas Jay Oord (Ed.), Creation Made Free: Open Theology Engaging Science. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2009.
To my knowledge, this paper is the only philosophical application of game theory to divine providence to date. I apply it here mainly in the context of open theism. I argue that game theory is a more rigorous and fruitful framework for modelling divine providence than many of the commonly used metaphors and analogies (such as William James' chessmaster analogy). I also develop a novel argument for open theism in relation to the ‘Creation Game’ in which God must decide what type of world (if any) to create.
- “Fumerton’s Principle of Inferential Justification, Skepticism, and the Nature of Inference,” Journal of Philosophical Research 33 (2008): 215–234.
In this paper, based on a central chapter of my dissertation, I argue that Richard Fumerton’s principle of inferential justification (PIJ) is tenable if and only if one adopts an ‘internalist’ conception of inference, one according to which an inference is not merely the formation of a belief based on propositional input, but also requires having an internal perspective on the evidential relation between premises and conclusion.
- “Generic Open Theism and Some Varieties Thereof,” Religious Studies 44 (2008): 225–234.
In this paper I define ‘generic’ open theism as commitment to (a) broadly classical theism, (b) the causal openness of the future, and (c) the incompatibility of (b) with an epistemically settled future. I then distinguish three important varieties of open theism, according to whether alethic openness is affirmed or denied, and whether bivalence is affirmed or denied.
- “The Philosophical Case for Open Theism,” Philosophia 35 (2007): 301–311.
This paper is a refinement of the semantic argument for an alethically open future that I gave in my 2006 paper “Open Theism, Omniscience, and the Nature of the Future.” Drawing upon Arthur Prior's distinction between 'Peircean' and 'Ockhamist' tense logics, I appeal to the principle of charity to argue that the semantics of predictions follows the Peircean model. If this is right, then it follows that a causally open future entails an alethically open future, which in turn entails an epistemically open future. Given theism, open theism follows.
- “Open Theism, Omniscience, and the Nature of the Future,” Faith and Philosophy 23 (2006): 432–459. (with Gregory A. Boyd and Thomas G. Belt)
In this paper my coauthors and I argue against the idea that the future is alethically settled (i.e., the idea that there is a unique and complete true story of the future). Negatively, we argue that a priori arguments for the thesis beg the question. Positively, we argue that both semantic and metaphysical considerations favor the view that the future is alethically open; that an alethically open future is compatible with bivalence; and that a God who knows the future as alethically open can still be unqualifiedly omniscient.
- “Critical Thinking,” in Joseph W. Koterski, S.J., (Ed.), New Catholic Encyclopedia Supplement 2012–13: Ethics and Philosophy (Cengage, 2013).
- Review of James A. Keller, Problems of Evil and the Power of God (Ashgate, 2007). Ars Disputandi [http://www.ArsDisputandi.org] 10 (2010): 158–162.
- Review of Richard Swinburne, ed., Bayes’s Theorem (Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. 113), Oxford University Press, 2002. International Philosophical Quarterly 45 (2005): 269–270.
- The Problem of Induction: An Epistemological and Methodological Response, (New York: Fordham University, 2004).
I respond to David Hume's famous problem of induction by arguing for a version of Peirce’s ‘critical common-sensism’ according to which the most fundamental substantive assumptions upon which our inductive practices depend are provisionally and non-inferentially justified because that is the epistemically responsible stance to take toward them. (Advisor: John Greco)