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Hume Studies Volume 32, Number 2, November 2006, pp. 357-361 Book Reviews T. J. Mawson. Belief in God: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005. Pp. 272. ISBN 0-19-928495-4, Paperback, £19.99. This new introduction to the philosophy of religion covers a reasonably traditional selection of topics, the first half of the book being concerned with the concept of God, and the second with arguments for and against his existence; many of the positions taken, on the other hand, are quite distinctive. The book is written in a chatty style, and makes much use of far-fetched examples, which will certainly please some readers while annoying others; it also contains a number of philosophical jokes which will fly over the heads of the beginners to whom it is addressed. Mawson takes as his topic "theism," by which he understands the common core of belief shared by (orthodox) Christians, Jews and Muslims. He takes these religions to share a concept of God as a person, incorporeal, omnipresent, omnipotent , omniscient, eternal, perfectly free, perfectly good, a necessary being, creator of the world, creator of values, who has revealed himself to us, and offers us the hope of eternal life. Mawson assumes that this is the common core of belief shared by monotheistic religions; the first part of the book is taken up, not with defending the claim that this is the concept of God, but rather with filling out the meaning of the various elements in the definition and defending its coherence. Volume 32, Number 2, November 2006 358 Book Reviews The second part of the book begins with a short discussion of properly basic belief, arguing, quite plausibly, that even if belief in God is properly basic for some people, it cannot be properly basic for us once we know of the challenges which it faces. There follow discussions of major arguments for the existence of God; Mawson concludes that the Ontological Argument, the Argument to Design and the Cosmological Argument are all without force, while arguments from religious experience and from reported miracles may have force, depending on how well supported the specific claims on which they depend are; as this is an empirical question he makes no attempt to resolve it. There follows a discussion of the problem of evil, which is answered by a form of the free will defence; the book concludes with a discussion of the nature of faith, which defends a modified version of Pascal's wager. Readers of this journal will be particularly interested in the two chapters in which arguments from Hume are discussed—those concerning the Argument to Design and concerning miracles—and in the rest of this review I will focus on them. Mawson finds four objections to the design argument in Hume; that the argument turns on an analogy between the world and human products, and the analogy is not in fact a close one; that there are many other hypotheses besides the theistic one which can explain the order of the world; that the imperfection of the world threatens the argument, as it is unreasonable to posit a perfect cause to explain an imperfect effect; and that the theistic hypothesis, arrived at on the basis of the design argument, cannot answer further questions suchasthose regarding, for instance, answers to petitionary prayer or life after death. Mawson dismisses the last three arguments, while allowing some force to the first. (A fifth Humean objection, the "Why stop at God?" argument, is introduced at a later point in the discussion; Mawson argues that it can be answered if we hold, as a dualist might, that mind can be self-ordering in a way in which body cannot.) To the second objection Mawson replies that the fact that other explanations are possible does not undermine the theistic one if that is in fact the simplest; likewise , his answer to the third is that it is legitimate to posit more in a cause than is strictly needed to account for the effect, if this produces a simpler hypothesis. However, these responses do not do justice to the full force of Hume's arguments . He does...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-9921
Print ISSN
0319-7336
Pages
pp. 357-361
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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