About Eric Sotnak

Is Necessary Existence Necessary?

Consider the following argument for the existence of God.1. Something exists. 2. Anything that exists must either exist contingently or necessarily. 3. It is impossible that everything that exists is contingent. 4. Therefore, there must exist at least one necessary being. 5. Only God could be a necessary being. 6. Therefore, God exists.I think any argument in support of 5 is going to be very weak, but I propose to set it aside for this post and focus on 2 (only peripherally on … [Read more...]

The Homeopathic Christ Problem

(A mostly silly puzzle about Holy Communion)  The Christian sacrament of Communion can be viewed according to two main competing theoretical perspectives. The first can be called the “symbolic presence” account, according to which the bread and wine are nothing more than symbolic representations of the body and blood of Jesus. On this view, to participate in Communion is to participate in a purely symbolic ritual. Christ is not in any sense literally present in the bread and wine; his p … [Read more...]

Christianity without Belief in the Resurrection?

BBC News has a story describing an interesting survey. Several particular results stand out: Half of the respondents reported that they do not believe that the Resurrection happened. But of these, many also identified as Christians. About one-fourth of respondents who identified as Christians reported that they do not believe that the Resurrection occurred. So much for 1 Corinthians 15:14. According to the BBC story, it is also true that 9% of people identifying as non-religious … [Read more...]

Is Pure Consciousness Possible?

Some practitioners of meditative disciplines or people who have had mystical experiences claim to attain a state of “pure consciousness” (PC). PC is supposed to be a state where one is conscious, but is not conscious of anything. That is, it is completely objectless, or if it has any object at all, the object is nothing but consciousness itself. I see two problems with the idea of PC. The first is that I have doubts that such a thing is possible, and the second is that if it were possible, it wo … [Read more...]

Intelligent Design: Get ready for another round

President Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is very likely a supporter of teaching Intelligent Design (ID) in public schools. Her husband, Dick DeVos, ran for Governor of Michigan in 2006 and explicitly stated his support for ID ( http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/09/21/devos-and-intelligent-design/ ). It is not unlikely, then, that ID proponents will be emboldened to make a fresh push to include it in school science curricula.A key strategic claim for ID p … [Read more...]

Retributivism, Punishment, and Moral Value

In the comments on another post http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2017/01/05/memoriam-derek-parfit-1942-2017/ , the contrast between retributivist and consequentialist models of punishment came up. Here is a thought-experiment I present to my classes on this contrast.Suppose that in lieu of life-imprisonment for major crimes, the technology exists to plug offenders into a Matrix-like situation: they are to be imprisoned for the rest of their lives in a completely virtual reality. … [Read more...]

Black Holes and the Problem of Evil

Data produced by the Hubble Space Telescope show that the brightest supernova ever recorded was actually a star being torn apart by a black hole in what is being called the ASASSN-15lh event.This has a high “coolness factor” for astronomy enthusiasts. But I couldn't help but wonder a little whether there were any planets in that ill-fated solar system with life on them. Suppose such a catastrophe were to befall Earth – what would be the theological implications? This would be a purely hyp … [Read more...]

Consciousness and souls

Substance dualists insist that no matter what goes on in the squishy 3 pound lump of brain inside the human skull, none of it constitutes what is really essential to human cognition. Something else, an immaterial soul, has to be added to the brain in order for it to … well, to do something – just what is not entirely clear. Free will, consciousness, and personal identity are some of the most common candidates.There are a lot of problems with substance dualism, but for me one of the most com … [Read more...]