(The following review will be crossposted shortly at Prosblogion. Comments are closed here, but will be open there.)
Apart from what Alvin Plantinga calls creative anti-realism, the two main philosophical options for many of us in the West are some version of naturalism and some version of Judeo-Christian theism. As its title indicates, J. P. Moreland’s The Recalcitrant Imago Dei: Human Persons and the Failure of Naturalism (SCM Press, 2009) supports the theistic position by way of a penetrating critique of naturalism and such associated doctrines as scientism. Moreland briefly discusses creative anti-realism in the guise of postmodernism on pp. 13-14, but I won’t report on that except to say that his arguments against it, albeit brief, are to my mind decisive. Section One of this review will present in some detail Moreland’s conception of naturalism and what it entails. Sections Two and Three will discuss his argument from consciousness for the existence of God. Section Four will ever so briefly report on the contents of the rest of the book. In Part Two of this review I hope to discuss Moreland’s critique of Thomas Nagel’s Dismissive Naturalism. Numbers in parentheses are page references. Words and phrases enclosed in double quotation marks are quotations from Moreland. Inverted commas are employed for mentioning and ‘scaring.’
A guest post by Peter Lupu. Comments in blue by BV.
If there are immortal souls, would murder be a grave moral breach?
1) Theists, like their atheist adversaries, consider murder a severe breach of morality. Unlike causing a minor physical injury to another or damaging or even completely destroying their home, car, or other belongings, murder is considered to be an altogether different matter. The emphasis upon the moral gravity of murder compared to these other moral infractions is, of course, justified and the justification rests in large part upon the finality and irreversible nature of the consequences for the victim. We can perhaps put these consequences as follows: once dead, always dead! Compared to those other infractions where we can perhaps assess the damage and convert such assessment into some sort of tangible remedy, we have no clue how to even begin such appraisal of harm when it comes to a matter such as ceasing to exist forever. If death would have been a temporary state, such as a long sleep for instance, from which one returns into being once again, I am certain we would have found a way to assess the damage done and assign suitable remedy. But, of course, death is not a temporary state such as sleep. Or is it?
The idea behind the Potentiality Principle (PP) is that potential personhood confers a right to life. For present purposes we may define a person as anything that is sentient, rational, and self-aware. Actual persons have a right to life, a right not to be killed. Presumably we all accept the following Rights Principle:
RP: All persons have a right to life.
What PP does is simply extend the right to life to potential persons. Thus,
PP. All potential persons have a right to life.
PP allows us to mount a very powerful argument, the Potentiality Argument (PA), against the moral acceptability of abortion. Given PP, and the fact that human fetuses are potential persons, it follows that they have a right to life. From the right to life follows the right not to be killed, except perhaps in some extreme circumstances.