More Defense of William Lane Craig

Wow, my post defending William Lane Craig has generated a lot of feedback. Given the interest in that topic, I thought it would be valuable to go through in detail an example of the sort of unfair attack I’ve seen a few atheists heap on Dr. Craig. Over at the Rational Response Squad forums, I discovered this 2010 post by “HisWilliness” (HW), where the author comments on Craig’s debate with Shelly Kagan. HW writes:

That’s actually what I mean when I say “destroyed”. Ordinarily, WLC’s opponents are so flummoxed by him (because he’s supposed to be a philosopher, and he seems to grant himself the luxury of not addressing questions posed to him) that they get caught up in the weight of the overwhelming insanity of his position. That can flat rattle a thoughtful person!

But because Kagan is so talented and practiced at lecturing (as evidenced by his online course on death) he’s well suited to show Craig for the phony that he is. Kagan is the real deal, in that he can both rattle off an argument and also think about it on the spot. Craig merely appears to be a philosopher in that sense, especially in other debates where no-one is clever enough to take him to task for just one argument at a time.

And then further down the thread, HW writes:

Not a joke like WLC’s education is apparently a joke, another kind.

I find these comments appalling, not to mention illogical. Consider the first quotation. In its logical form, HW’s argument seems to be the following.

(1) If a debater is caught completely off guard by their opponents’ comments in a single debate, then that debater is a phony and not a real philosopher.
(2) WLC was caught completely off guard by Shelly Kagan’s points in their debate.
(3) Therefore, WLC is a phony and not a philosopher.

For the record, I agree with (2); Craig’s performance in his debate with Kagan was quite out of character. But (1) is false. Just as in the National Football League anything can happen on “any given Sunday,” any philosopher, even one who is usually very good at debating, can have a bad day in a given debate. Absolutely nothing follows from a single debate performance about a person’s knowledge of philosophy. The conclusion of this argument is false.

Turning to HW’s attack on WLC’s education, again, I would offer the following reply. Look in the mirror. What are your philosophical credentials? Do you have a Ph.D. in philosophy? If not, why should anyone at all care what you think of WLC’s–or, for that matter, anyone else’s–credentials in philosophy?

And calling Craig a “phony” or dismissing his education as a “joke” is rude, a personal attack that is completely unjustified and has no relevance to the merits of his arguments. Just as we should not tolerate misbehavior by theists, we should not tolerate misbehavior by atheists, either. As a simple matter of common courtesy, I hope that HW apologizes to WLC for these remarks.

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09565179884099473943 The Uncredible Hallq

    I'm reluctant to endorse claims that Craig is not a "real philosopher" or a "good philosopher," because I'm not really sure what those things are. But otherwise I see nothing wrong with HW's comment.

    In particular, I see no reason to read the quoted paragraph the way you do. Another way to read HW's point was that Kagan did a good job of showing why Craig's arguments are terrible. While I haven't listened to the entire debate, based on the excerpts lukeprog provides in his review, that assessment of the debate strikes me as entirely plausible. You can say, "oh that was just one debate," but Craig uses the same bad arguments in debate after debate, and Kagan showed what's wrong with those arguments.

    The "phony" comment also makes sense if a lot of people listening to the debate got the sense that Craig wasn't sincere about the things he was saying, and was just saying whatever he thought would sound good. Again, I'm not sure about that particular debate, but that's certainly the sense I get after repeated exposure to Craig.

    As for Craig's credentials, they have not stopped him from habitually making terrible arguments, arguments that are terrible in ways that are straightforward and easy to explain. Why should anyone care that I think this, you ask? Well obviously because it's true and I can show it's true.

    Finally, I think it's obvious that when a prominent academic is consistently disingenuous (i.e. a phony), or behaves in a way that suggests they don't deserve the credibility that would normally come with their credentials, that's something worth noting. It may not be nice, but I think this is a case where telling the truth is more important than being polite.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12030785676230758243 Dan

    Jeff

    What's interesting to me is why you feel the need to defend Craig from internet thugs. Would you explain that for me?

    Hallq

    It would be a quite well developed intuition you have if you can pick out when people don't fully believe what they are saying: Could you explain what kind of sense or feeling you get when you experience that?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12478038936820787129 Landon Hedrick

    I partly agree with Hallq on this one. I don't think Craig's moral argument is very good, and I think that Kagan did a good job of exposing that in their debate. It wasn't like Craig was having an off day, either. Craig presented his same speech just as forcefully as he ordinarily would have, but he didn't hold up as well during cross-examination. This was partly due to the fact that Kagan was great at responding to Craig's questions, and Craig wasn't as good at responding to Kagan's points.

    I also think that the critic of Craig that Jeff cites in this blog post isn't as bad as some of the critics that I've seen. I agree that the really bad ones should be exposed, but this one doesn't stand out as much in need of exposure as so many others that one can find online. But I'm not going to go do any digging to substantiate this, especially since it's not as if I'd be digging for gold. But I'll say that it strikes me as absurd to claim (as some people do) that Craig is either not a philosopher, or else he is a really bad one. Really bad philosophy usually doesn't get passed through peer-review, and a lot of Craig's work has consistently passed peer-review. Furthermore, Craig's work generates serious rebuttals by other good philosophers, who presumably don't think Craig is a terrible philosopher. My suspicion is that most of the people who make this claim are people who either are not well-established philosophers themselves, or else those who don't have a good working knowledge of all of the work Craig has done. I might be wrong about that, since it's just a suspicion, so if anybody has evidence to the contrary I'd be willing to hear it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10212971606135991995 Wes

    Jeff,

    I agree with much of your defense of William Lane Craig. I think he is a tremendously skilled debater and an excellent apologist.

    It is foolish to criticize Craig qua apologist; I think, though, that there are some grounds upon which to criticize Craig qua philosopher.

    You've suggested, however, that one cannot criticize Craig's philosophical credentials unless he or she has philosophical credentials. I think this is mistaken. Even though I know nothing about cars, it doesn't mean I can't question a mechanics skills when he makes obvious mistakes that no mechanic should make (e.g. he can't find the spark plugs in a car, etc.). I just do not see how it follows that one cannot evaluate the credentials of another simply because he or she does not hold equal or greater credentials.

    As far as my own credentials, I do not have PhD in philosophy. I am currently finishing my dissertation for a PhD in philosophy, but I'm not there yet. I didn't graduate from a highly-regarded department (although it ranks among the top 35 in the Western world for my specialization). I have no publications (I have never submitted anything), but hope to submit pieces of my dissertation for publication. I was, however, the first student to complete the program with a 4.0 GPA, I passed comprehensive exams on the first try (a rarity in my department), and I am a tenure-track philosophy professor at a small community college. While I make no claim to be a good philosopher, I think I have the qualifications to assess whether another is (I reject the idea that it "takes one to know one"). You may disagree.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10212971606135991995 Wes

    So, onto Craig's qualifications. First, consider his education. In most PhD programs, the average time to complete a degree is 7 years. Typically, course work takes up 2-3 years and dissertation the rest. In the UK, the time is about the same, even though there is no required coursework (many accuse philosophers educated in the UK as being a little narrow in their understanding of philosophy as a whole because of this). In any case, 5-7 years is typical, with anything under 5 years extremely rare.

    With these times in mind, consider Craig's CV. He graduates college in 1971 with a degree in communications and completes two master's degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School by 1975. One of those is in Church History, the other in Philosophy of Religion.

    Note that his undergraduate degree was not in philosophy, the master's degree in Church History has nothing to do with philosophy, so we are left with the philosophical education he acquired in the master's in philosophy of religion. Now, that degree has philosophy in the name, but if it is anything like the current program, he had very little exposure to philosophy at all (almost half of the 32 credits are in theology and the "philosophy" requirements include classes like "Apologetics," "Theism," and "Philosophical Issues in Religious Pluralism." These are certainly not typical philosophy classes.

    Additionally, one must consider the faculty teaching philosophy classes. Trinity Evangelical Divinity school is certainly not recognized for its philosophical faculty. In fact, the current faculty has exactly one member who claims a philosophical field (viz. bioethics) as an Area of Specialization. Perhaps this was different in 1975, but if so I am unaware of it. So, to this point we have Craig with a very limited education in philosophy per se, though we perhaps can grant he has a decent grounding in philosophy of religion.

    But, what of his philosophy PhD? He earned that in 1977. Now, do the math. He finishes two masters degrees in 1975, moves to England and completes his PhD in philosophy in two years! Recall, the average is 5-7 years for a PhD in philosophy.

    I think it is obvious what happened. Taking very little or no additional coursework in philosophy, Craig completed a dissertation in philosophy of religion.

    And, consider too, that the University of Birmingham has never been considered a top-ranked department in philosophy (and, yes, I'm speaking as someone who also did not graduate from a top-ranked department, but I'm making no claim to be a "good philosopher").

    So, Craig does not receive an undergraduate education in philosophy and has very limited and narrow exposure to philosophy in sub-par philosophy programs in graduate school. I think there is room to criticize his education.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10212971606135991995 Wes

    Second, to evaluate his philosophical credentials, we can look at his publications. Here, I think there is less to criticize. He has been published in a few decent peer-reviewed journals (although, if I'm not overlooking anything, the *vast* majority of his peer-reviewed articles have come from Philosophia Christi, an evangelical journal with very little respect outside of evangelicalism) and his arguments have been taken seriously by unquestionably great philosophers like Wes Morriston and others.

    But, you have to admit his influence has been pretty narrow compared to other good Christian philosophers. Compare his publications with Alvin Plantinga's CV, for example. Plantinga and many other professional Christian philosophers have had vast influence, not only in philosophy of religion, but also in epistemology, ethics, etc.

    Lastly, consider Craig's debate performances against other philosophers. There's a reason people keep mentioning his performance against philosophers like Kagan, Jesseph, and Draper. When faced with truly accomplished philosophers, Craig clearly under-performs (and, I think that is a generous assessment).

    My take: Craig is one of the best living apologists. His arguments should be taken seriously. He is a decent philosopher of religion who has written a few articles of note that deserve the attention they've received. I do not, however, believe he should be considered a good philosopher. He does not appear to have a significant background in philosophy and has proven himself inadequate when faced with questions like those raised in his dialogue with Kagan, for example.

    Great, excellent, superb, skilled (fill in more good adjectives) apologist and debater. Mediocre at best philosopher.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10212971606135991995 Wes

    And, again, since you believe the credentials of the evaluator important, I will openly admit that my own philosophical credentials are completely unimpressive and that Craig is clearly a more credentialed philosopher than I.

    My argument is that, compared with even the many young philosophers at Prosblogion, for example, Craig is a mediocre philosopher at best. In apologetics, he is a giant; in philosophy, he has made few contributions of note.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826768452963498005 Jim Lippard

    Wes wrote: "He has been published in a few decent peer-reviewed journals (although, if I'm not overlooking anything, the *vast* majority of his peer-reviewed articles have come from Philosophia Christi, an evangelical journal with very little respect outside of evangelicalism) and his arguments have been taken seriously by unquestionably great philosophers like Wes Morriston and others."

    Including publications in the _Journal of Philosophy_, the _British Journal for the Philosophy of Science_, the _Australasian Journal of Philosophy_, and the _American Philosophical Quarterly_. That is nothing to sneeze at. (Most of these are on philosophy of time and cosmology.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12478038936820787129 Landon Hedrick

    Wes,

    Interesting comments here. Of course, I don't think Craig's exposure to philosophy can be evaluated by his graduate programs back in the 1970s. He's been an active philosopher in the interim, though he has of course primarily focused on debates in philosophy of religion. This isn't out of the ordinary though, as philosophers generally specialize in this way. And, in any case, Craig's specialization extends beyond that sub-field to other areas in metaphysics (e.g. philosophy of time and abstract objects).

    Regarding his publications, of course he's had less of an influence than somebody like Plantinga. If that's your standard, then most philosophers will fall short. Craig himself would admit this, since he seems to think that Plantinga is the best Christian philosopher of the twentieth century (or at least of the second half of the twentieth century).

    Now none of this suggests to me that Craig is a "bad" philosopher, as some people claim. You didn't claim that, you said he was mediocre. But in that case, would you say that most philosophers are mediocre by those standards?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10212971606135991995 Wes

    Jim,

    Indeed, these are good to great journals, one and all. My claim, of course, is the the vast majority of his peer-reviewed articles are in a journal without reputation.

    But, even still there are a few things we should mention. First, there is a difference between a featured article (typically, 20 pages or longer) and a response article (3-8 pages). Just skimming his publications, I can only find two articles in the journals you mention that are over 10 pages (I did this quickly, though, so I may have miscounted), and none 20 pages or longer.

    Again, I certainly am not trying to take a shot at Craig. I think he's an excellent apologist. I just think there is reason to doubt he is a good philosopher.

    Let me try this another way. I have serious doubts that Craig could land a tenure-track job at a good philosophy department in a reasonably competitive job market. I do not doubt that Alvin Plantinga, Dean Zimmerman, Keith DeRose, Edward Wierenga, John Hawthorne, Michael Rea, Richard Swinburne, Robin Collins, and lots of the young philosophers at Prosblogion could land these jobs. I don't even think this is that controversial to say. Craig's work, as far as I can tell, is of a lesser quality than these good philosophers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10212971606135991995 Wes

    Landon,

    First, I absolutely think it is fair to judge one's philosophical credentials (which is the question here) in part by his or her education. Philosophers, indeed, specialize, but they typically do so with an excellent grounding in philosophy in general.

    Second, not that I also compared him to the young philosophers at Prosblogion, not just Plantinga. Obviously, Plantinga is a great philosopher and causes many to pale in comparison, but someone like Alex Pruss at Prosblogion is indisputably a good philosopher as well, and I do not believe Craig is in that league.

    I'm saying that if I'm on a search committee at a good college or university, Alex Pruss and Trent Dougherty get a job before Craig. Both because of publications and education.

    While Craig is likely the best apologist alive, he does not rank as a great philosopher. I'm not sure this should even be controversial.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12478038936820787129 Landon Hedrick

    Wes,

    I said that I don't think we can judge Craig's exposure to philosophy by looking at his graduate program more than thirty years ago. Of course looking at his education does help us judge his credentials, though at this point I think his subsequent work has superseded his education in importance when we're trying to evaluate his credentials.

    You did compare him to the folks at Prosblogion, and I don't know what to make of the comparison. You might be correct that Craig isn't on a par with even the younger individuals on that blog. I haven't thought about that. In any case, not being as good as Pruss or Dougherty does not make one "bad" or even "mediocre."

    I'm not defending the idea that Craig is a "great philosopher." You're probably right that it's uncontroversial to deny that Craig is a great philosopher. But you haven't just denied that he's "great," you've claimed that he's mediocre (right?). And the question I asked you was whether, by your standards, most philosophers would be deemed mediocre.

    At the very least I can see that you and I aren't disagreeing about a whole lot. My main disagreement is with those who claim that Craig is a "bad" philosopher. I find that that claim is often made by people who aren't established philosophers themselves or else people who aren't familiar with his work. (But again, I might be wrong about that.) Richard Carrier, for example, recently wrote (on the other thread about Craig) that he, Plantinga, and Swinburne are all bad philosophers. Of course, Richard is first and foremost an historian, in my opinion. He's certainly not (yet?) a well-established philosopher.

    You might think that this is irrelevant, but I find it interesting that most of the people I've encountered who claim that Craig is a bad philosopher fall into one of these categories. My hunch is that if you ask philosophers who are sufficiently familiar with Craig's work (not just, say, his moral argument for the existence of God), they would by and large deny the charge that he's a bad philosopher. Likely he would be deemed "average" or "better than average." Probably some, but not many, would say that he's "great." That's my guess.

    By the way, out of curiosity, what is your dissertation about?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10212971606135991995 Wes

    Landon,

    Right, I don't think there is much distance between us. We both think Craig's arguments are worth the philosophical attention they get. I mentioned his education, his publications, and his interactions w/other philosophers to make a case against his being considered a good philosopher. Not only is his education questionable, his interactions with Kagan, for example, seem to indicate some very serious misunderstandings of basic moral philosophy. These are errors I don't think a good philosopher would make. Note that I said his publications leave the least room for criticism, but there are even questions there.

    I mention the Prosblogion folks to get us in the ballpark of what is expected of professional philosophers. You know how pedigree-sensitive professional philosophy is. Do you honestly think Craig would be considered a viable candidate for a tenure-track job at your program at the University of Nebraska? If Alex Pruss and Trent Dougherty applied, I think it is uncontroversial to suggest that they would get more consideration than Craig.

    Because of this and the other things I mention, I think Craig is a mediocre philosopher. And, yes, I do actually think that most philosophers are mediocre. I save the term "good" for those like many of my former professors at the University of Albany, SUNY (the ones who completed excellent graduate programs, have a good publication record, and have vast general knowledge of all disciplines in philosophy), and I save "great" for Kripke, Putnam, Strawson, etc. Perhaps, our disagreement is semantic, but if so I would like to make an argument for my use of the terms.

    I share your distaste for those who dismiss those with unquestionable credentials. Anyone who says that Plantinga, Alston, Swinburne are not (were not in Alston's case), good philosophers has no idea what he or she is talking about. I just don't count Craig among those names.

    I really think that some have confused Craig's greatness as an apologist with greatness as a philosopher. I think this is a mistake. He is a great apologist who must be seriously considered, but he is a mediocre philosopher at best.

    [To answer your last question, my dissertation is in a field completely unrelated to philosophy of religion. My dissertation is in bioethics, specifically on virtue ethics and abortion.]

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10212971606135991995 Wes

    BTW: I aspire to be mediocre some day; not even there yet. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12478038936820787129 Landon Hedrick

    Wes,

    You're right, there's not much distance between us after all. I too hope to be mediocre someday!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09019385490238632365 ChristianJR4

    Part 1:

    Wes said:

    Trinity Evangelical Divinity school is certainly not recognized for its philosophical faculty…So, to this point we have Craig with a very limited education in philosophy per se, though we perhaps can grant he has a decent grounding in philosophy of religion.

    Craig actually did his undergraduate work in philosophy at Wheaton College. If I'm not mistaken, Wheaton College has the second largest undergraduate philosophy of religion program for English speaking students in the entire world, behind only the University of Toronto in Canada. That's pretty significant.

    But, what of his philosophy PhD? He earned that in 1977. Now, do the math. He finishes two masters degrees in 1975, moves to England and completes his PhD in philosophy in two years! Recall, the average is 5-7 years for a PhD in philosophy.

    Where exactly do you get this information? The average time as far as I'm aware to complete a PhD is 6-7 years, INCLUDING ones undergraduate studies and WITHOUT time off (ie. such as those who take a couple of years off). Therefore, Craig obtained his doctorate in 7 years. I would find it absolutely incredible if it were true that the average was 5-7 years of graduate work itself. That's fantastic.

    Wes said:

    And, consider too, that the University of Birmingham has never been considered a top-ranked department in philosophy (and, yes, I'm speaking as someone who also did not graduate from a top-ranked department, but I'm making no claim to be a "good philosopher")

    So what if their philosophy department isn't ranked at the top. Craig went to the University of Birmingham in the first place to study under the eminent philosopher of religion John Hick. He wasn't going there for their philosophy program. He was there to work with Professor Hick as his doctoral advisor. That also has to be considered when you take into account someone's academic background. Also, the University of Birminham doesn't by any means have a terrible rank for their philosophy department. They do make the top 100 Universities in the world for its program in philosophy. And while I'm not positive on this, I think back in 1975 their ranking was higher.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09019385490238632365 ChristianJR4

    Part 2

    Wes said:

    But, you have to admit his influence has been pretty narrow compared to other good Christian philosophers. Compare his publications with Alvin Plantinga's CV, for example.

    You're very mistaken. If you consider his work in the Philosophy of Religion then there's no denying his influence. Indeed, it's somewhat ironic that you mention Alvin Plantinga, since Craig's work on the Kalam Cosmological Argument has apparently received even more attention than both Plantinga's famous work on the ontological argument and his justification for Christian belief as a rationally acceptable basic belief. Recall that it is Plantinga that is often credited with reviving Christian philosophy back in the 1960's. With that in mind, consider this quote from professor Quentin Smith of Western Michigan University:

    "The Kalam cosmological argument… was revived and has been a topic of widespread discussion since 1979, when Craig published The Kalam Cosmological Argument. . . a count of the articles in the philosophy journals shows that more articles have been published about Craig’s defense of the Kalam argument than have been published about any other philosopher’s contemporary formulation of an argument for God’s existence. Surprisingly, this even holds for Plantinga’s argument for the rational acceptability of the ontological argument and Plantinga’s argument that theism is a rationally acceptable basic belief. The fact that theists and atheists alike ‘cannot leave Craig’s Kalam argument alone’ suggests that it may be an argument of unusual philosophical interest or else has an attractive core of plausibility that keeps philosophers turning back to it and examining it once again."

    "Kalam Cosmological Arguments for Atheism". The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. ed. by Michael Martin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 183

    In fact when you think of it, along with only a few other select works, Craig's defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument is one of the most influential of the philosophy of religion in the 20th century.

    Wes said:

    Lastly, consider Craig's debate performances against other philosophers. There's a reason people keep mentioning his performance against philosophers like Kagan, Jesseph, and Draper. When faced with truly accomplished philosophers, Craig clearly under-performs (and, I think that is a generous assessment).

    That's incredibly weak. Anyone who knows anything about Craig's debates knows that he has faced many capable prominent academic philosophers. These include Kai Neilson, A.C. Grayling, Quentin Smith, Richard Taylor, Michael Tooley, Edwin Curley, Antony Flew, Theodore Drange, Walter Sinnott Armstrong, Paul Kurtz, Louise Antony etc etc etc etc. Many of these people are highly distinguished and yet many people would regard Craig as having performed better in these debates. Even in the ones you mention (with the exception of the Kagan debate) it's debatable who did better. Some people think Draper did better, others think Craig did better. The same is true for the Jesseph debate. Some people think Jesseph won the debate, others think Craig did better. The point is you can't use academic accomplishment of a debater as a criteria for Craig's own academic qualifications. First and foremost, it's fallacious in and of itself, and secondly it's worthless since Craig has debated many accomplished academic philosophers and has very plausibly done better in the majority of cases, something which is generally accepted by both theists and atheists anyways.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09019385490238632365 ChristianJR4

    Part 3

    Wes said:

    I do not, however, believe he should be considered a good philosopher.

    Well many other people would disagree with you. It's also worth noting that you haven't said anything about his work on the philosophy of time, for which he is noted for. Indeed, he was the past president of the Philosophy of Time Society.

    You mentioned Dean Zimmerman in your comment. Here's what he has to say about William Lane Craig and his work:

    William Lane Craig, Talbot’s renowned research professor of philosophy, is “one of a kind.” He’s good at addressing large general audiences and is taken very seriously by people who work in metaphysics. He writes for good journals and speaks at the American Philosophical Association.

    Quentin Smith has also said that Craig is "one of the leading philosophers of religion and one of the leading philosophers of time". I fail to see how Craig could be a leading philosopher of religion and a leading philosopher of time and yet still fail to be a "good philosopher".

    Also, since you mentioned the people at the Prosblogion blog, you might like to know that they have a Top Philosophers of Religion article in which Craig is listed in the top 20. Again, more evidence that you're grossly mistaken in your assessment of Craig's credentials.

    Wes said:

    I have serious doubts that Craig could land a tenure-track job at a good philosophy department in a reasonably competitive job market

    Well again you would probably be mistaken. The fact that Craig's work in the philosophy of Religion is taught or featured in all major institutions offering philosophy of Religion programs and courses shows that he, if anything, would have a good chance at grabbing a position. Don't believe me, then you should also be consistent in saying the same for Dean Zimmerman, Keith DeRose, Edward Wierenga and most of the other people you listed from Prosblogion, since most of them are either below Craig's rank on their "top philosophers list" or else not even on it (ie. Keith DeRose).

    In conclusion then, you're arguments against Craig's academic credentials are at best extremely weak and at worse entirely ignorant, and I think I've given ample evidence to demonstrate precisely that.

    Regards!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12478038936820787129 Landon Hedrick

    ChristianJR4,

    Wes is correct, and you're incorrect, regarding the amount of time it takes to get a PhD. The fact that he's in a philosophy PhD program himself should have clued you in.

    Most of the grad students at UNL seem to be taking about 5-7 years, not including the years spent studying philosophy as an undergraduate. Generally the first few years are spent taking courses, and the last few years are spent writing the dissertation. It's possible that in Craig's case some of his credits from the Masters program transferred, so he was able to spend most of that short time writing the dissertation. But note that generally speaking, even when one gets a Masters degree and then goes into a PhD program (at a different institution), they have to start from the ground up and take another three years of courses before working on their dissertation. If Craig was able to get out of doing this, then he successfully avoided a few years of graduate study that a number of other people have to do. (It may be that things were different back then.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09565179884099473943 The Uncredible Hallq

    Let me contribute to the thing about Craig's Ph.D.

    When I was starting to consider graduate school in philosophy, I was told not to apply to British programs, because they only require a dissertation and do not include any coursework. So I'm guessing Craig didn't do any coursework as part of his Ph.D., though he still would have had graduate-level coursework for his masters. Still, two years is just about the minimum amount of time for writing a dissertation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10212971606135991995 Wes

    CJR4,

    Craig actually did his undergraduate work in philosophy at Wheaton College.

    Craig was a communications major, not a philosophy major.

    The average time as far as I'm aware to complete a PhD is 6-7 years, INCLUDING ones undergraduate studies and WITHOUT time off…

    You are mistaken; contact the philosophy program of your choosing. The time is sometimes less in the UK because of the lack of required coursework, but, again, Craig did not have a lot of philosophy coursework.

    So what if their philosophy department isn't ranked at the top.

    Good philosophy departments have good faculties in many different disciplines. A student in those departments have to take seminars in a broad selection of philosophical fields. My claim is that Craig had no opportunity to get this training.

    ***

    You made several good points in your Part 2 and Part 3 comments, but they are no longer posted for some reason. I have them in my email if you lost them for some reason. I wouldn't mind reposting if you'd like.

    One point you mention is that I failed to acknowledge his work on the philosophy of time. This was mentioned by someone else above as well.

    I think you are right; I did not give him enough credit for that (I did some searching around this morning). While I think it is overstating it to say that he is a leading philosopher in the philosophy of time, he is recognized for his work in that area.

    This definitely weighs heavily against my argument about his lack of philosophical influence. I'm not sure what to say about that. I still can't shake the impression that he would not do well on the academic job market, however, and this is something I know a good bit about, having been in a department who hired three new faculty members and having landed an academic job myself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00131358613835119782 Ben Wallis

    Jeffery Jay Lowder,

    I have a question for you, if you don't mind taking the time to answer.

    (But first a little background…)

    Not having any formal training in philosophy, I freely grant that I'm not in the best position to decide whether or not WLC is a good philosopher. But with that disclaimer out of the way, here is my evaluation of him:

    (1) (compliment) WLC's education is *extremely* impressive. Anyone who can accomplish what he has accomplished in terms of academic training is obviously intelligent, organized and hard-working—and again, in the extreme. Sadly, I agree that people seem not to appreciate this fact about WLC.

    (2) (compliment) WLC's production as a philosopher is also impressive IN A CERTAIN SENSE. People tend not to realize how much care, talent and skill are required to write even a single peer-reviewed paper. But WLC is a freakin' machine when it comes to academic output! He writes book after book, and publishes paper after paper. Even compared to his fellow PhD's, this is quite impressive. Again, it's sad that people seem not to appreciate these accomplishments.

    (3) (criticism) I disagree with almost every position I've seen WLC take. So from my perspective, WLC appears to be wrong about pretty much all the important stuff… i.e. the positions which he emphasizes and/or champions. So, for example, (in my judgment) he's wrong about the existence of God, causality, the nature of time, the role of intuition in determining truth, the relationship between ethics and God, how to evaluate miracle claims, etc. These seem to be his favorite positions—the positions he stands by most publicly and frequently—and as far as I can tell, he's wrong about almost every single one of them. And the arguments he uses to support them I find flawed.

    Now, maybe you think that my judgment is worthless, or near as much. If so, fair enough. I don't expect anyone to take my word for anything. But my own judgment is still all I have to go on. Maybe you think I should withhold my judgment, but that would require me to withhold judgment on the various issues in which I have a great interest, which does not seem realistic.

    But that aside, what I would most like to point out here is that there seems to be at least two ways in which we can evaluate WLC as a philosopher. First, we can ask how he compares with his fellow philosophers in terms of professionalism, output, quality of writing, etc. In all these things he seems to excel. But then we can ask how he fares in terms of reaching the right conclusions. And if I am to use my own judgment, I must regard him as an utter failure in this latter respect. But I am curious whether he is a success or failure in *your* judgment.

    So anyway, that's the end of the background…

    Finally the question I have for you is as follows: Assuming that you are okay with the distinction I just made between what we might call "professionalism" versus "correctness," do you judge WLC to be a good philosopher in the latter sense as well as the former? In other words, do you think that WLC tends to reach correct conclusions on those issues which he publicly champions?

    If you don't get time to answer, no worries. But hopefully you agree that the question is an important one.

    Thanks,
    –Ben


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