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Encyclopedia > Richard Swinburne
Western Philosophy
20th-century philosophy
Image:Richard Swinburne.jpg
Richard Swinburne
Name: Richard Swinburne
Birth: 26th December 1934
School/tradition: Analytic philosophy
Main interests: philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, theology
Influences: Plato, Aristotle, René Descartes,St Thomas Aquinas
Influenced: Anthony Flew

Richard G. Swinburne (born December 26, 1934) is an eminent British professor and philosopher primarily interested in the philosophy of religion and philosophy of science. It has been suggested that Contemporary philosophy be merged into this article or section. ... Analytic philosophy is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to prominence during the 20th Century. ... Philosophy of religion is the rational study of the meaning and justification ( or rebuttal) of fundamental religious claims, particularly about the nature and existence of God (or gods, or the divine). ... Philosophy of science is the study of assumptions, foundations, and implications of science, especially in the natural sciences and social sciences. ... At Wikiversity you can learn more and teach others about Theology at: The School of Theology Theology finds its scholars pursuing the understanding of and providing reasoned discourse of religion, spirituality and God or the gods. ... PLATO was one of the first generalized Computer assisted instruction systems, originally built by the University of Illinois (U of I) and later taken over by Control Data Corporation (CDC), who provided the machines it ran on. ... Aristotle (Greek: Aristotélēs) (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. ... René Descartes (French IPA: ) (March 31, 1596 – February 11, 1650), also known as Renatus Cartesius (latinized form), was a highly influential French philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and writer. ... Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225 - March 7, 1274) was a Catholic philosopher and theologian in the scholastic tradition, who gave birth to the Thomistic school of philosophy, which was long the primary philosophical approach of the Roman Catholic Church. ... Anthony Flew (also known as Antony Flew) (born February 11, 1923) is a British philosopher, known as a supporter of libertarianism and a past supporter of atheism. ... December 26 is the 360th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, 361st in leap years. ... Year 1934 (MCMXXXIV) was a common year starting on Monday (link will display full 1934 calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... The meaning of the word professor (Latin: one who claims publicly to be an expert) varies. ... A philosopher is a person who thinks deeply regarding people, society, the world, and/or the universe. ... Philosophy of religion is the rational study of the meaning and justification ( or rebuttal) of fundamental religious claims, particularly about the nature and existence of God (or gods, or the divine). ... Philosophy of science is the study of assumptions, foundations, and implications of science, especially in the natural sciences and social sciences. ...


Christian apologetics

A member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, he is noted as one of the foremost rational Christian apologists, arguing in his many articles and books that faith in Christianity is rational and coherent in a rigorous philosophical sense. While he presents many arguments to advance the belief that God exists, he argues that God is a being whose existence is not logically necessary (see modal logic), but metaphysically necessary in a way he defines in his The Christian God. Other subjects on which Swinburne writes include personal identity (in which he espouses a view based on the concept of a soul), and epistemic justification. The Eastern Orthodox Church is a Christian body that views itself as: the historical continuation of the original Christian community established by Jesus Christ and the Twelve Apostles, having maintained unbroken the link between its clergy and the Apostles by means of Apostolic Succession. ... Apologetics is the field of study concerned with the systematic defense of a position. ... Christianity percentage by country, purple is highest, orange is lowest Topics in Christianity Movements · Denominations Ecumenism · Preaching · Prayer Music · Liturgy · Calendar Symbols · Art · Criticism Important figures Apostle Paul · Church Fathers Constantine · Athanasius · Augustine Anselm · Aquinas · Palamas · Wycliffe Tyndale · Luther · Calvin · Wesley Arius · Marcion of Sinope Pope · Archbishop of Canterbury Patriarch... In philosophical logic, a modal logic is any logic for handling modalities: concepts like possibility, impossibility, and necessity. ... In philosophy, the issue of personal identity concerns the conditions under which a person at one time is the same person at another time. ... The soul, according to many religious and philosophical traditions, is the self-aware essence unique to a particular living being. ... This article or section should include material from Episteme Epistemology (from the Greek words episteme=science and logos=word/speech) is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature, origin and scope of knowledge. ...

Though he is most well-known for his vigorous rational defense of Christian intellectual commitments, he also has a theory of the nature of passionate faith which is developed in his book Faith and Reason.

According to an interview Swinburne did with Foma magazine, he switched from the Church of England to the Greek Orthodox Church around 1996: The Church of England is the officially established Christian church[1] in England, and acts as the mother and senior branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion, as well as a founding member of the Porvoo Communion. ...

I don’t think I changed my beliefs in any significant way. I always believed in the Apostolic succession: that the Church has to have its authority dating back to the Apostles, and the general teaching of the Orthodox Church on the saints and the prayers for the departed and so on, these things I have always believed.

Swinburne's philosophical method reflects the influence of Thomas Aquinas and identifies Swinburne as a Natural Theologian. He admits that he draws from Aquinas a systematic approach to philosophical theology. Swinburne, like Aquinas, moves from basic philosophical issues (for example, the question of the possibility that God may exist in Swinburne's The Coherence of Theism), to more specific Christian beliefs (for example, the claim in Swinburne's Revelation that God has communicated to human beings propositionally in Jesus Christ). Swinburne moves in his writing program from the philosophical to the theological, building his case rigorously, but as with any approach to theology that builds upon itself, any weaknesses that one finds in Swinburne's early arguments may continue to appear weak in later arguments where he assumes the correctness of earlier conclusions. Swinburne relies on his previous arguments as he moves into his defenses of particular Christian beliefs. Swinburne has attempted to reassert classical Christian beliefs with an apologetic method that he believes, although others would contest it (see Richard Dawkins's book The God Delusion[1]), is compatible with contemporary science. That method relies heavily on inductive logic, seeking to show that his Christian beliefs fit best with the evidence. His long and productive career represents a method that appeals to some, but is considered to be built on false premises to others. Clinton Richard Dawkins (born March 26, 1941) is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and popular science writer who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. ... The God Delusion is a book written by British ethologist Richard Dawkins, Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. ...

He has also criticised Richard Dawkins's book The God Delusion, a book that is openly criticial of Swinburne's own beliefs. In the book, Dawkins cites a joint tv appearance where Swinburne said that the Holocaust could be viewed as positive because it enabled the Jews to show bravery. The God Delusion is a book written by British ethologist Richard Dawkins, Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. ...

Religious Experience

Swinburne's Categories

Swinburne formulated five categories into which all religious experiences fall:

  • Public - a believer 'sees God's hand at work', whereas other explanations are cited (e.g., looking at a beautiful sunset).
  • Public - an unusual event that breaches natural law (e.g., walking on water).
  • Private - describable using normal language (e.g., Jacob's vision of a ladder).
  • Private - indescribable using normal language, usually a mystical experience (e.g., "White did not cease to be white, nor black cease to be black, but black became white and white became black.").
  • Private - a non-specific, general feeling of God working in one's life.

Swinburne also coined two principles for the assessment of religious experiences:

  • Principle of Credulity - with the absence of any reason to disbelieve it, one should accept what appears to be true (e.g., if one sees someone walking on water, one should believe that it is occurring, unless one is under the influence of an hallucinogen).
  • Principle of Testimony - with the absence of any reason to disbelieve them, one should accept that eye-witnesses or believers are telling the truth when they testify about religious experiences.

Academic career

Swinburne has held various professorships through his career in academia, including from 1972 to 1985 at the Keele University. From 1982 to 1984 he gave the Gifford lectures at Aberdeen, resulting in the book The Evolution of the Soul. From 1985 until his retirement in 2002 he was Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion at the University of Oxford (his successor in this chair is Brian Leftow). Keele University is a research-intensive campus university located near Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire, England. ... The Gifford Lectures were established by the will of Adam Lord Gifford (d. ... The University of Aberdeen was founded in 1495, in Aberdeen, Scotland. ... The University of Oxford (usually abbreviated as Oxon. ...

Swinburne has been a very active author throughout his career, producing a major book every two to three years. His books are primarily very technical works of academic philosophy, but he has written at the popular level as well. Of the non-technical works, his Is There a God? (1996), summarizing for a non-specialist audience many of his arguments for the existence of God and plausibility in the belief of that existence, is probably the most popular, and is available in translation in a dozen languages. It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Existence of God. ...

Major books

  • The Concept of Miracle, 1970
  • The Coherence of Theism, 1977
  • The Existence of God, 1979 (new edition 2004).
  • Faith and Reason, 1981
  • The Evolution of the Soul, 1986, ISBN 0-19-823698-0
  • Miracles, 1989.
  • Responsibility and Atonement, 1989
  • Revelation, 1991
  • The Christian God, 1994
  • Is There a God?, 1996, ISBN 0-19-823545-3
  • Simplicity as Evidence of Truth, The Aquinas Lecture, 1997
  • Providence and the Problem of Evil, 1998
  • Epistemic Justification, 2001
  • The Resurrection of God Incarnate, 2003

Spiritual autobiography

  • Richard Swinburne, "The Vocation of a Natural Theologian," in Philosophers Who Believe, Kelly James Clark, ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), pp. 179-202.

Critical assessment

  • Colin Brown, Miracles and the Critical Mind (Exeter: Paternoster/Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1984), pp. 180-184.
  • Keith M. Parsons, God and the Burden of Proof: Plantinga, Swinburne, and the Analytic Defense of Theism (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1989).
  • Nicholas Wolterstorff, Divine Discourse: Philosophical reflections on the claim that God speaks (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
  • D. Mark Parks, An Analysis and Critique of Richard Swinburne's Philosophical Defense of Propositional Revelation. Ph.D. Dissertation. (Fort Worth: Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1995.)


Vardy, Peter (1990). The Puzzle of God. Collins Sons and Co., pp. 99-106. 

See also

This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ...

External link

  • Personal Homepage at Oxford University - Includes a curriculum vitae and more complete list of publications
  • Presentation at Gifford lectures

  Results from FactBites:
Swinburne's Argument from Religious Experience (7904 words)
While Swinburne's overall aim is to establish that the probability that God exists is greater than one-half, he does not want the probability to be too high, for he fears that this would necessitate belief in God on the part of whoever accepts the argument, thereby negating the accepter's freedom to choose not to believe.
Swinburne constructs a theodicy for these evils based on their being necessary for our having the requisite knowledge to make morally significant choices, a knowledge of which can be gained only by inductive reasoning from past experiences of actual instances of natural evils.
Swinburne seems to have forgotten that he is supposed to be justifying his extension of the PC to religious experience in premiss 2 on the ground that there are no cognitively relevant disanalogies between sense and religious experience.
Richard Swinburne’s Teleological Argument (3279 words)
Swinburne seeks a stronger version of the teleological argument which tends to bypass the co-present (spatial) regularities in favor of the successive (temporal) regularities that seem apparent in the universe.
Swinburne believes that the force of explanation sides most favorably with the latter hypothesis, though he first must explain why Hume’s skeptical character Philo, arguing as much for the sake of arguing as for any other reason, suggests to Cleanthes in the Dialogues that his single God could well be many gods.
Swinburne also distinguishes between types of inductive arguments, suggesting that there are P-inductive and C-inductive arguments: in the former of which the premises or data render the conclusion likely and in the latter of which the premises contribute to the overall probability of the conclusion, but do not directly, of themselves alone, make it probable.
  More results at FactBites »



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