I had the chance to do a written interview with Dr. Alexander Pruss (one of the most brilliant philosophers alive). In case you don’t know who Dr. Pruss is, he is a mathematician, philosopher, and a Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University. He is also a Roman Catholic. In this interview, my questions are bullet-pointed and in bold,
- What got you interested in philosophy?
I had heard that it was essential for theology.
- What do you believe is the strongest argument for the existence of God?
Either the cosmological argument, or maybe a design argument from the incredibly low initial entropy.
- What view of God do you hold (classical theism, neoclassicism, etc.)?
- Animal suffering is one of the biggest challenges for Theism. How do you respond to the question of why animals have had to suffer and die, even millions of years before human history?
The death of a brute animal is not, I think, an evil. I am a four-dimensionalist. That animals die just means that their lives have an upper temporal boundary. That their lives have spatial boundaries isn’t an evil. That they have temporal boundaries seems no more evil. Now, the death of a human is different: humans have a natural seeking after goals, such as deeper and deeper knowledge, that require ever more life.
The suffering of animals is a tougher question, I think. Let me say something super speculative which I don’t quite believe, but which nonetheless may be right.
Of course, every theist thinks this:
1. For every instance of animal suffering, God must have a good reason why he allowed that instance.
The following logically follows (at least given the thesis that everything that happens is at least allowed by God):
2. Every instance of animal suffering that God does not have a good reason to allow is prevented by God.
Now, how would we expect God to prevent the instance of animal suffering? A plausible thesis is that God minimizes miraculous interventions. What would that mean in the case of animal suffering? Well, one kind of miraculous intervention would be to prevent the cause of the suffering–say, make the deer not get burned in the fire. But perhaps a smaller miraculous intervention would be to leave the external world unchanged, and simply administer miraculous anaesthesia to the animal. Now the most minimal form of miraculous anaesthesia would be one that affects the animal mentally without affecting the animal physically (I am convinced that consciousness requires dualism, and since some animals are conscious, dualism must be true of them as well). In such a case, we would observe pain behavior, but there wouldn’t be any pain.
This seems crazy, I admit. But consider that our main reason for believing in animal pain is the argument from analogy: their behaviors are similar to those we have while in pain, so probably they are in pain when they have these behaviors. But an argument from analogy is always weakened when there is a disanalogy. So, suppose there is this disanalogy: there is a theodicy for the human pain but none for the animal pain. That weakens the argument from analogy for animal pain!
I don’t really believe this solution–it seems incredible–but the above arguments have some plausibility.
- Many Theists struggle with the question of Divine Hiddenness. If Theism is true, why doesn’t God reveal Himself to all people?
Well, first of all, I think that in a very important sense God has revealed himself in creation to all people.
But why doesn’t everyone understand this revelation?
I doubt there is a single answer that applies to every case. I would expect there to be different reasons in the case of different people.
One reason that I find fairly likely to hold in some cases is this. Suppose that God loves me, but in my free will I have acquired such a character that if I were to believe in God, I would be unfaithful to him. It’s better for me then not to believe in God than to believe in God and not live up to that faith.
I don’t expect there to be a single answer for why God doesn’t reveal himself to every person to whom
- If you could give an agnostic one book from a Theist’s perspective, what book would you recommend?
The Gospel of Luke.
- Who do you see as the best defender(s) of atheism today? What book(s) provide the best defense of atheism?
Maybe Graham Oppy.
As much as I benefit from Pruss’ work, this interview sure leaves something to be desired!