My summer reading list 2016

My (preliminary) planned summer reading list for Summer 2016. Many of these will be rereads, some will be completely new. I will be trying to write about as many of them as I can!

  • The collected works of C. S. Lewis (will hopefully be doing a pretty big blog series on these)
  • Scholastic Metaphysics by Edward Feser
  • Real Essentialism by David Oderberg
  • Jesus and the God of Israel by Richard Bauckham
  • Selected works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Selected works of Leo Tolstoy
  • Selected works of Victor Hugo
  • Confessions of St. Augustine
  • Pensees by Blaise Pascal
  • Selected works of G. K. Chesterton (most like Orthodoxy, Heretics, and The Everlasting Man)
  • Selected works of Timothy Keller (Prayer, Jesus the King, Generous Justice)
  • Justice by Michael Sandel (read most of this for an ethics class this past year, will hopefully be reading through the whole thing again to do a series of posts on politics and social ethics)

This list, of course, is still evolving and taking shape. And, like usual, I may not get through everything I want to read, but this is the plan!

-Harrison Jennings

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Prime Mover: An Amateur Defense

The “Prime Mover” argument is perhaps the oldest and most significant argument for the existence of God in the history of philosophy. Originating with Aristotle himself, it was revived and reasserted by the great Thomas Aquinas, who held it as the strongest proof for the existence of God. The Prime Mover argument comprises the first of Aquinas’ famous “Five Ways,” and it is the argument he spent the greatest amount of time and space in his writings defending. Despite this argument’s impressive history and importance to the philosophical tradition, it has largely gone out of “style” (as it were) in contemporary philosophy/apologetics. Today, the “Big Three” arguments used to establish/defend God’s existence are 1) the Kalam Cosmological argument, 2) the Fine Tuning argument, and 3) the Moral Argument. These are not by any means the only or even the best arguments being used today, but even just a cursory reading of relevant material should suffice to show that these arguments appear more frequently, especially to popular “apologetic” audiences. The prominence of the first two of these arguments is due largely to advances in modern cosmology. For example, the Kalam Cosmological argument originated from Islamic thinkers (versions of it actually go back much further, but Islamic thinkers, and some Jewish philosophers, really established it) and today has been robustly reintroduced and defended by William Lane Craig, largely due to the revolutionary turn in thinking in the 20th century regarding the physical beginning of the universe, namely, that our universe did have a beginning in time at the “Big Bang.” The Fine Tuning argument likewise arose out of the discovery of modern physicists that the fundamental forces of our universe had to be finely “tuned” for life to be even possible at all, and the chances of this are so astronomically minuscule that the best explanation seems to be (according to defenders of the argument) a supernatural designer. The moral argument has not emerged due to any scientific advancement (although conversations about the relation of morality to evolutionary biology are interesting and relevant), but, I would put forward, owe’s its popularity to C. S. Lewis’ famous discussion of the argument in his classic Mere Christianity.

All three of these arguments are certainly significant and worth exploring/talking about, and I do happen to find at least parts of the arguments convincing and otherwise successful. However, they are, in many respects, Continue reading