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Arguing about Gods 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521122641
ISBN-10: 0521122643
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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

Examines arguments for and against the existence of God with conclusions supported by detailed analyses of arguments, as well as by the development of a theory about the purpose of arguments, and the criteria that should be used in judging whether or not an argument is successful.

About the Author

Graham Oppy is Professor of Philosophy at Monash University. He is author of: Ontological Arguments and Belief in God; Philosophical Perspectives on Infinity; Arguing about Gods; Reading Philosophy of Religion (with Michael Scott); The Best Argument against God; Reinventing Philosophy of Religion: An Opinionated Introduction; and Describing Gods: An Investigation of Divine Attributes. He is editor of The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy of Religion, and (with Nick Trakakis) The History of Western Philosophy of Religion.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (November 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521122643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521122641
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,549,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Chad McIntosh on November 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
If I were asked to shelf three of the most formidable cases for atheism to date, the first would be J. L. Mackie's The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God (Oxford, 1983). Only recently have there been worthy shelf-neighbors to Mackie. On one side of Mackie I would put J. Howard Sobel's Logic and Theism: Arguments For and Against Beliefs in God (Cambridge, 2003). On the other I would put Graham Oppy's recent book, Arguing About Gods (Cambridge, 2006).

In Arguing About Gods, Oppy painstakingly examines a daunting range of arguments for "othodoxly conceived monotheistic gods", or what has been called 'the God of the philosophers' (as opposed to, say, the concept of God specific to only one religion). The survey and critique that initially sets the tone of Oppy's project is commendable, in both depth and conservation with contemporary philosophers of religion. About two thirds of the way into the book, however, those virtues begin to wear thin. Many of the arguments Oppy later considers become increasingly straw-man in character.

For example, take what he gathers to be the argument from mathematical knowledge (Argument 3 in subsection 6, "Arguments from Puzzling Phenomena" of Ch.7 on miscellaneous arguments):

1. There is no (agreed) naturalistic explanation of how we are able to come by knowledge of mathematics.
2. Our knowledge of mathematics is (best) explained as the result of an orthodoxly conceived monotheistic god's so constituting us that we are able to have that knowledge.
3.
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Oppy provides a masterful and in depth examinations of the major arguments for and against God critiquing in depth the major arguments concerning God's existence. While he focuses mostly on the arguments for God, including the cosmological, teleological, and ontological arguments, he also spends time criticizing the argument from evil, and tempering the conclusions that can reasonably be made from it.

Given Oppy's skilled dismantling of theistic arguments, as well as his stance of being "firmly of the belief that there are no supernatural entities of any kind," it may come as a surprise that he still concludes that there are no arguments, either for or against the existence of God, that ought to change a rational person's mind. But surely there must be some beginning stance that is more rational than another, and which could be the deciding factor in the rationality of theism. Arguing About Gods could have seriously benefited from an examination of the burden of proof, or what presuppositions count as rational.

Even given Oppy's measured conclusions, the book still provides plenty of resources for readers to form their own conclusions, and there are few books that provide a deeper coverage of the arguments. This book will provide much food for thought for those who are already familiar with academic philosophy, and who are looking for one of the best argued and well thought out books on philosophy of religion.
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In contrast with most, if not all, of the other reviewers of this book, I write my comments as a Christian theist. At this time I have browsed, not carefully read the book, so perhaps my conclusion will change later, but I purchased the book because it's description reflected an observation I have made with increasing conviction the longer I live: that God has leveled the playing field, so that people have access to Him not on the basis of the power of their minds, but on the basis of the purity of their motives. As Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matt. 5:8 NIV). It seems to me, then, that reasonable people who WANT to find justification for belief in God will do so, while those who do NOT WANT to believe in God will find convincing arguments for disbelief. That, it appears to me, is the conclusion of Graham Oppy in Arguing about Gods, though he would frame it differently. I think my fellow atheist reviewers have it wrong: Oppy, regardless of his personal worldview, is not dismantling theism and strengthening atheism's position; that appears to be a projection of their own wishful thinking. In fact, the controlling sentence of the entire book is this one: "I think that such theists and atheists are mistaken. While they may be entirely within their rights to suppose that the arguments that they defend are sound, I do not think that they have any reason to suppose that their arguments are rationally compelling, that is, that they provide reasonable opponents with compelling internal reasons to change their views" (p. 34). As a Christian theist--and as someone who has read a fair amount about theory construction and about the philosophy and psychology of science--Oppy's view makes sense to me.Read more ›
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Dr. Oppy's book (along with Dr. Sobel's Logic and Theism) is the strongest atheist book written since Mackie's "The Miracle of Theism". It contains powerful insights into the epistemology of argument and the the main arguments for the existence of God including excellent discussions of the Kalam Cosmological Argument and Godel's Ontological Argument. However, AAG is not for those who are ignorant of philosophy, especially recent philosophy of religion and logic. I would also recommend you reading it along side with Dr. Oppy's other book, "Philosophical Perspectives on Infinity", which tackles all of the associated mathematical questions. These books were originally planned to be one book "God and Infinity", but it would have been too big for a single entity.
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