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Theism and Ultimate Explanation: The Necessary Shape of Contingency Hardcover – February 11, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1405169691 ISBN-10: 1405169699 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (February 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405169699
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405169691
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,494,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“This trim but highly technical volume is indisensable for scholars and graudate-level researchers in the field.  Summing Up:  Essential.  Graduate students and researchers/faculty.”  (Choice, 1 October 2012)

"Despite these limitations, this book is worth reading. It will alert theologians to the philosophical strength of cosmological arguments and the superficial objections to them. It will also interest philosophers of religion and those working on modal logic." (The Journal of Religion, 2011)

"It will alert theologians to the philosophical strength of cosmological arguments and the superficial objections to them. It will also interest philosophers of religion and those working on modal logic." (Journal of Religion, 1 April 2011)

"O’Connor does not disappoint those who are used to the high levels of clarity, rigor, and originality that readers of his work on free will and emergence have come to expect from him.” (Mind, July 2009)

“A breathtaking sweep from metaphysics through theology. This is a superb book in the philosophy of religion, the like of whose quality and originality is rare.”
Alexander Pruss, Baylor University

From the Back Cover

Theism and Ultimate Explanation engages with the traditional metaphysician's quest for a true ultimate explanation of the most general features of the world we inhabit.

The first part of the book develops an original view concerning the epistemology and metaphysics of modality, or truths concerning what is possible or necessary. This framework is then applied to a re-examination of the cosmological argument for theism. O'Connor defends a novel version of the Leibnizian cosmological argument from contingency for the existence of a transcendent necessary being as the source and basis for the ultimate explanation of contingent beings and their interconnected histories.


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By DCCHEF on September 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Timothy O'Connor has written an interesting book full of meaty metaphysics (plus some theology). The central goal of the book is to present an up-to-date cosmological argument from contingency for the existence of a transcendent necessary being (NB). My favorite part of the book was the comparison of two competing visions of the NB: Logos and Chaos.

Laying some groundwork in the first two chapters of the book, he discusses the case for modal realism and sketches a theory of modal epistemology. He argues that the concepts of contingency and necessity are so fundamental to explanation and reasoning (as well as to everyday life) that they are grounded in real truths.

In Chapter 3, we begin to look at where the quest for explanation will take us. If the contingency of the world is real and acknowledged, and the necessities we come to know (if imperfectly) are also real, what explains this situation?

First, O'Connor discusses the common naturalist option which asserts that there is an infinite causal chain of contingent things, and that no further explanation is needed. O'Connor says we can still coherently ask for an explanation of why THIS chain of things, and not another. The rejoinder at this point is to point out that a fully contrastive explanation of why this chain is as it is, if it existed, would convert the contingent chain to a necessary one. But O'Connor responds by saying that we can still seek a complete explanation, even if it is a non-fully-contrastive one.

But how can a necessary being provide the right kind of explanation? The necessity of the cause would seem to "prove too much" and convert the contingent chain to necessary status.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J.W. Wartick on December 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Timothy O'Connor's brief Theism and Ultimate Explanation has already garnered much discussion since its publication in 2008. Notably, the most recent edition of Philosophia Christi features a book symposium on the work. What is all the fuss about?

Theism and Ultimate Explanation is broken into two parts. Part I addresses "The Explanatory Role of Necessity" while Part II addresses "The Necessary Shape of Contingency."

Part I contains some fantastic arguments. O'Connor outlines various views on modality and seeks to defend modal realism, which takes modal truths to be actual truths about our world (and other worlds). Further, he defends the possibility of a priori truths against attacks from those who argue that all such truths need to be established empirically.

There are some who argue that empirical evidence (such as quantum mechanics) helps to undermine belief in some methods of reasoning, such as the law of non-contradiction, but O'Connor counters this by pointing out that those who make the argument that the "odd" data which may seem to contradict the method of reasoning against which their argument is directed are using the very methods of reasoning which they are trying to undermine. Another possibility is that the empiricist making this claim has switched to a different method of reasoning in order to critique that which holds to things like the law of non-contradiction, but O'Connor points out that a critique from such a method is "underwhelming" at best (46).

In Part II, O'Connor argues that it is coherent to ask the question, "Why is there anything (contingent) at all?" (65). He further argues that the only possible answer to this question is a termination in a necessary being.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mike Robinson on May 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Timothy O'Connor (Professor: Philosophy, Indiana University) delivers a fascinating and innovative new volume: "Theism and Ultimate Explanation: The Necessary Shape of Contingency." Professor O'Conner presents the reader with a fine overview of philosophy, metaphysics, with an aim toward philosophical theology. Herein O'Conner provides a fine leap into various unexplored regions (not fully metaphysically surveyed) within philosophical religion; the examination and application thereof. The author partitions this volume into two chief divisions as he explores the truth and relationship relating to that which is possible and/or necessary. He then proceeds to posit a coherent metaphysical structure that seeks to advance an "ultimate explanation."

This volume may be a bit pricey, nonetheless the reader receives much more than what he paid in dollars; a unique, provocative, and I affirm, compelling work which discloses captivating conjectures concerning an ultimate explanation of the cosmos and human experience.

In the chapter on "Modal Knowledge" the author asks:
"How do we rationally discern the possible truth of some claim that is actually false or the necessary truth of some claim that is actually true . . . and what, ideally, is the overall structure of our modal beliefs, and how do they inferentially connect with other beliefs?" (p. 32)
O'Connor adds:
"The proponent must make his case for such a revision either in classical logical terms -- reasoning classically both in showing the supposed 'incongruence' of classical logic and certain quantum phenomena and in defining the quantum logical connectives and rules of inference -- or in terms of the new logic. If the former, he hasn't really repudiated the normative status of classical reasoning.
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