This somewhat silly but intriguing question comes from an essay in the most recent Journal of the History of Philosophy by Rondo Keele. Take any painting by Picasso — let’s say Guernica. Could God have created that painting, without using Picasso himself as an intermediate cause?
Some would say yes, since Guernica is just a creature, and an omnipotent being can create any creature, it seems.
But some would say no, since part of Guernica‘s identity is tied to the fact that Picasso painted it. Look at it this way: suppose a stroke-for-stroke duplicate of Guernica is created ex nihilo. Is it Guernica? No, at most it can only be a wonderful forgery of Guernica, because it didn’t come from Picasso.
So really the question is: can God make Guernica, or at most only a forgery of Guernica?
(This debate, by the way, originates from a dispute between the medieval philosophers William Ockham and Walter Chatton.)
There’s an provocative essay on this UCSD-affiliated blog about the rather extreme and violent examples used frequently in ethics classes, and whether they might be doing more harm than good. The discussion following the essay is very good and interesting.
OK, not the most nuanced exchange, but Michael Gerson wrote an article claiming that, without God, we really don’t have what it takes (direction? motivation?) to be moral. This has been followed by Christopher Hitchens’ typically acerbic reply.
I would have thought Plato’s Euthyphro should have put this debate to rest a long time ago!
USU is in the process of putting together some brief “iLectures” for interested prospective students (and anyone else). So I have put together one on Philosophy, which you can read here if you want:
Here’s the final paragraph, so you can better determine if you’re interested:
“But more than all that: philosophy, as the love of wisdom, is the intelligent and honest attempt to become, as Aristotle might have put it, a ‘professional human being,’ which is a human being who has worked out his or her moral obligations and theoretical beliefs and integrated them into an honorable, well-balanced life. For in the final analysis, none of us wants to have lived a mistake; nobody wants to regret how they have lived. We want to live the best possible life, given who we are and what we face. And that is why we are all interested in wisdom. It is the science of figuring out how to live as a fully human being.”
(I’ll post a link to the actual iLecture once it’s recorded and posted.)
Also: for anyone interested in listening to other philosophers discuss interesting topics, check out the podcasts available here on “Philosophy Bites.” It’s an interesting set of topics, discussed by well-known professional philosophers, and the series is growing increasingly popular in the set of educational podcasts.
Hear Philosophy major Suzy R.’s latest guitar jam here.