About Steven Dunn

Steven Dunn is the author of "Hellenistic Christendom"; a blog with a primary focus on the philosophy of religion and other philosophical/theological subjects relevant to his interests (existentialism, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, etc.). He completed high school in May of 2013 and will be starting Community College in June of 2014 pursuing a degree in Philosophy. He currently resides in Tampa, FL.

Five Ontological Arguments

rembrandt-456I find it difficult to critique something if you have not read the argument (assuming, for example, it is in a textual or narrative form) in its designated context. We moderns may struggle with a plethora of classical problems that contained phenomena, terms and language that don’t quite mean the same as they used to. For instance, those who have read the Republic will find it strange that only a third of the book deals with political theory (or “statescraft”) as such (Havelock 1963: 3). Even more strangely, it is Plato’s attack on poetry that consumes almost the entire first half of the book.

Anselm’s ontological argument contains somewhat of the same struggle. If we follow the initial premise of the argument (God is “something than which nothing greater can be thought” is understood) to its conclusion, that this God exists in reality, we tend to see a rather big leap made by Anselm. However, what one has to understand is that Anselm was a Christian as well as a neo-Platonist. Like Plato, he saw that ideas (mental things) had a different kind of reality than nonmental things. Hence, it is vastly different to say that “the best possible” thought of a thing must exist in reality, than to say that ideas correspond to a certain kind of reality than “real” things do (Davies 1998: xii-xiii).

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The Legitimate Use of Pascal in Apologetics

I have written two prior treatments of Christian philosophers’ usefulness in apologetics* and here I wish to add another to the list: French philosopher Blaise Pascal (1632-1662). Pascal is widely known for his work in mathematics and science, although his recognition and focus on religion and philosophy wouldn’t come until later in his life. In 1654, where not too long before, physics and mathematics were regarded as secondary in his mind, Pascal experienced a life-changing religious conversion, which led him to a life of devotion and theology as his primary concerns.

Pascal became a close associate of a group of ascetics known as “Jansenists,” named after the Dutch Bishop Jansenius (1585-1638) who wrote a famous treatise on St. Augustine entitled the Augustinus (1640). The influence the group had on Pascal would (in part) lead to his emphasis on the corruption of human sin and the need for divine, irresistible grace. When Pascal died in 1662 of an undiagnosed illness, there was a paper found stitched into his jacket: “The God of Abraham, The God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars.” This demonstrates, in a brief statement (among others), the skepticism Pascal applied to the power of philosophy.  [Read more...]

Objection(s) to the Ontological Argument

It may be strange to some that there are philosophical objections raised by Christians against arguments for belief in God. For example, St. Anselm’s “Ontological Proof” (as it would come to be called) was taken under a critical lens when Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) took consideration of the argument in his epic Summa Theologiae (ST hereafter). Over the last year or so, I have written numerous defenses of Anselm’s argument as well as criticisms so as to see if we have a legitimate and defensible argument for God’s existence.

Gaunilo and Kant’s criticism aside, there are several other considerable objections to the argument that I think are serious enough to address. Two in particular come to mind. Mortimer J. Adler (1980) makes the point in his book How to Think About God that existential propositions do not entail logical necessity. As he writes at length:

No existential proposition can be self-evidently true or necessarily true. When we have direct perceptual acquaintance with a particular individual, the existence of that individual is evident to us, but the proposition which asserts that the individual exists is not self-evident, nor is its truth necessary. Self-evident propositions are propositions which we know to be true directly from our understanding of their component terms, not by process of reasoning or inference. (Adler 1980: 104)

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Creatures Point to Christ

Death always seems to be a negative or morbid subject. Whatever connotation it may have, the only thing significant about it is that it is real – i.e., we are going to die one day. As Blaise Pascal put it into words: “When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, the little space which I fill. . .  I am frightened, and shocked at being here” (Livingston 2006, 134). Philosophers have given special attention to this reality and have articulated it in such a way that, in fact, from them we can gain insight. 

Socrates said that philosophy is for the dead. Particularly in the Phaedo he says, “For I deem that the true disciple of philosophy is likely to be misunderstood by other men; they do not perceive that he is ever pursuing death and dying” (Wartenberg 2008, 101).  Death is what separates the soul from the body according to Socrates, and hence, the disembodied soul is then able to pursue “real” knowledge,” and so, the philosopher in his pursuit of wisdom and knowledge should not be afraid of death.  [Read more...]

#EndFathersDay: Where the Twitter Trend Gets Fathers Wrong

With the arrival of Father’s Day this Sunday, Twitter has unleashed a new hashtag that has primarily to do with the disgust of male patriarchy and the lack of consideration for single mothers and/or same-sex couples on this day. The hashtag? “#EndFathersDay.” According to one tweet, “#EndFathersDay because it’s a slap in the face to single mothers everywhere.” Although there is some discussion regarding these phenomena to be a hoax emerging from sites like 4chan and Reddit, journalists and freelance writers from various organizations are nonetheless hopping aboard this trend and sticking to it.

For example, Haig Chahinian and his article over at the Los Angeles Times is sympathetic with this line of thinking, although his argument is not particularly feminist in nature. He himself being a married homosexual male, Chahinian observes that “…[r]ecent census data indicates only 19% of homes are composed of traditional moms, dads and kids. More than 11 million residences with kids are headed by a single person or a same-sex couple” (Chahinian, 2014). What conclusion does Chahinian draw? “These families too have to be fumbling through one of the parents’ holidays.” Chahinian’s solution: “the all-inclusive Parents’ Day.”

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