Thom Atkinson
 
 
 
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About

I am currently a Ph.D. student in Philosophy. My Ph.D. thesis is titled, 'Human organisms and the survival of death.' For the academic year 2016-2017 I will hold a Jacobsen studentship from The Royal Institute of Philosophy. I have papers published in the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion and Sophia.

My research interests are, primarily, in the Epistemology of Metaphysics (especially modal scepticism) and in Metaphysics (especially material constitution and the ontology of human persons). I am also interested in issues concerning life after death and religious perception.

All photographs are courtesy of my wife.

 
 
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Publications

 

2016

Conceivability, possibility and the resurrection of material beings, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 80 (2):115-132

In his 1998 postscript to ‘The Possibility of Resurrection’ Peter van Inwagen argues that the scenario he describes by which God might resurrect a human organism, even though probably not true, is still conceivable and, consequently, ‘serves to establish a possibility’, namely, the metaphysical possibility of the resurrection of material beings. Van Inwagen, however, has also argued in favour of ‘modal scepticism’ [van Inwagen in, God, knowledge and mystery: essays in philosophical theology, Cornell University Press, Ithaca 1995b, pp. 11–12; van Inwagen in, Philos Stud 92:67–84, 1998a]. That is, he thinks that we should limit all our claims about what is possible to ‘ordinary propositions about everyday matters’, 1998a). In this paper I argue that van Inwagen’s modal argument as found in ‘The Possibility of Resurrection’ is inconsistent with his modal scepticism as found in ‘Modal Epistemology’. In consequence, I argue that, given his modal scepticism, the task van Inwagen set himself in ‘The Possibility of Resurrection’ has not been achieved.

 

Aquaintance and the sublime: an alternative approach to theistic sublime experience, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion (forthcoming)*

In this paper I argue that when one has an epiphany of the form ‘God is F’ (e.g., ‘God is wise’) upon having a sublime experience one can be accurately described as being acquainted with the fact that God is F as opposed to inferring that God is F from the experience at hand. To argue this I will, first, (§1) outline what a sublime experience is in general before outlining what a theistic sublime experience is in particular. Second, (§2) I will outline two ways of understanding theistic sublime experiences. First, I will outline a model that I will call the ‘inference model’ which, put simply, says that when one has an epiphany of the form ‘God is F’ upon having a theistic sublime experience one is drawing this conclusion via a process of ‘inference-to-the-best-explanation’ (Chignell and Halteman 2012, 426). Second, I will outline an alternative model that I call the ‘acquaintance model’ which, put simply, says that no inferential process occurs when one has an epiphany of the form ‘God is F’ upon having a theistic sublime experience but one is made directly aware of the fact that God is F. Third, (§3) I will respond to some objections to the acquaintance model.

*This paper is taken from my MA thesis.


2015

A Reply to Anders’ ‘Mind, Mortality and Material Being: van Inwagen and the Dilemma of Material Survival of Death’, Sophia, 54 (4):577-592

In his paper ‘Mind, Mortality and Material Being’ Paul Anders attempts to show that Peter van Inwagen’s materialist metaphysics of the human person, combined with the belief that human persons survive death, faces a dilemma. Either, on the one hand, van Inwagen has to accept an account of the survival of human persons across death that cannot escape the duplication objection (§1.2), or, on the other hand, van Inwagen has to accept an account of the survival of human persons across death that entails the possibility of that which is logically impossible and, in consequence, renders his metaphysics necessarily false (§2). This paper is concerned with the second horn of the dilemma. In this paper, I will attempt to do two things. First, I will attempt to show that Anders’ description of van Inwagen’s ‘naked kernel’ (van Inwagen 2009, 329) account of the survival of human persons across death is, at times, unclear, before, second, attempting to demonstrate that there is a response that van Inwagen could give to Anders’ argument regardless of these unclarities. Consequently, I think that, at least until Anders’ description is made clearer, and until Anders tells us why van Inwagen can’t opt for the solution I propose, we should consider van Inwagen’s inclination that God can preserve a kernel that is sufficient for the survival of human persons across death to be unharmed by Anders’ argument.

 

Work In Progress

A paper on van Inwagen's modal scepticism (under review)

In this paper, I state and develop a version of ‘the different sources argument’ for modal scepticism as originally put forward by Peter van Inwagen in his paper ‘Modal Epistemology’ (Philos Stud 92(1): 67–84, 1998). In particular, I develop van Inwagen’s argument by drawing upon recent work in modal epistemology so as to avoid two major objections raised by Heimir Geirsson in his paper ‘Conceivability and Defeasible Modal Justification’ (Philos Stud 122(3): 279–304, 2005). What remains is a more robust argument for modal scepticism.

How to argue for restricted modal scepticism (in draft)

Varieties of modal scepticism (in draft)

Modal scepticsm and the consequence fallacy (in draft)

Animalism, defences and the possibility of resurrection (in draft)

 

 
 
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Presentations

 

Selected invited and refereed presentations

2017

How to argue for restricted modal scepticism, The role of imagination in epistemology workshop, University of Antwerp (Mar. 2016)

2016

How to argue for restricted modal scepticism, The Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW) conference, University of Groningen (Dec. 2016)

Modal scepticism and the consequence fallacy, 3rd PLM MASTERCLASS with Timothy Williamson, Institute of Philosophy, Senate House, University of London (Nov. 2016)

Materialism, defences and the possibility of resurrection, Philosophy of Religion work-in-progress seminar, University of Birmingham (Sept. 2016)

The different sources argument for modal scepticism: imagination and perception, 2nd Epistemology of Metaphysics workshop, University of Helsinki, Finland (Sept. 2016)

Remnant persons and the survival of death, 2016 Winter School on Philosophy of Death and Dying at the Forum Scientiarum, University of Tübingen, Germany (Feb. 2016)

2015

Conceivability, possibility and the resurrection of material beings, The Self in the Light of Divinity: Analytic Theology & Human Persons, Heythrop College, The University of London, UK (Nov. 2015)

Personal identity and the gumnos kokkos, 13th International Conference on Persons, Boston University, USA (Aug. 2015)

Acquaintance and the sublime: an alternative account of theistic sublime experience, Tyndale Fellowship Philosophy of Religion Conference, Wolfson College, The University of Cambridge, UK (Jul. 2015)

Defining some parameters for organism survival across death: A van Inwagenian approach, The Philosophy and Theology of Immortality Conference, The University of Hull, UK (May 2015)

2014

The resurrection of material beings: recomposition, compaction and miracles, Eastern Regional Meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers 'Themes from van Inwagen,' Niagara University, USA (Nov. 2014)

Material beings and the metaphysics of the resurrection, Tyndale Fellowship Philosophy of Religion Conference, Wolfson College, The University of Cambridge, UK (Jul. 2014)

COMMENTS

Comments on 'Surviving the Interim State without becoming Disembodied' by T. Ryan Byerly, Exploring the interim state workshop, Idaho USA (Jul. 2015)

Comments on 'Holy Saturday and Christian Theological Anthropology' by Jason McMartin, Exploring the interim state workshop, Idaho USA (Jul. 2015)

 
 
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Teaching

 
 

2016/2017

Critical, Analytical and Creative thinking

The aim of this module is to introduce students to the concepts and methods of informal logic and to enable students to use these concepts and methods in assessing arguments both within and outside philosophy.

PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE

The aim of this module is to introduce students to, and enable them to explain and evaluate, the following: compositional theories of meaning, the nature and purpose of Frege's sense-reference distinction, Russell's Theory of Descriptions, the difference between extensionality and intensionality, sceptical approaches to meaning (such as Quine's and Kripke's), Davidson''s programme of radical interpretation, rival theories of truth, the connections between the notions of truth and meaning, and the debate between realists and anti-realists.

2016/2017

Introduction to Logic

The aims of this module are to introduce students to the concepts, language and methods of classical sentential logic and to introduce students to a language of classical quantificational logic.

 

 

2015/2016

Metaphysics

The aim of this module is to provide an introduction to some of the most significant debates in contemporary metaphysics;  topics include:  change and persistence, objects and properties, space and time.

PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION

The aims of this module are to introduce the current state of discussion concerning the concept of God. To introduce the major arguments for, and the major arguments against, the existence of God. To enable the student to clarify and develop his or her own views on whether God exists and what God is like.

2015/2016

Introduction to Logic

The aims of this module are to introduce students to the concepts, language and methods of classical sentential logic and to introduce students to a language of classical quantificational logic.

 

 

2014/2015

CRITICAL, ANALYTICAL AND CREATIVE THINKING

The aim of this module is to introduce students to the concepts and methods of informal logic and to enable students to use these concepts and methods in assessing arguments both within and outside philosophy.

INTRODUCTION TO LOGIC

The aims of this module are to introduce students to the concepts, language and methods of classical sentential logic and to introduce students to a language of classical quantificational logic.

2014/2015

READING AND WRITING PHILOSPHY

The aim of this module is to consolidate the academic skills and knowledge necessary for the critical reading and writing of philosophy.

 

PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION

The aims of this module are to introduce the current state of discussion concerning the concept of God. To introduce the major arguments for, and the major arguments against, the existence of God. To enable the student to clarify and develop his or her own views on whether God exists and what God is like.

 
 
 
 

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CONTACT

Please be in touch