EPS National Meeting 2009: Timothy O’Connor

December 09, 2009
Posted by Administrator

Our national meeting of the EPS in New Orleans produced a number of excellent papers, a great challenge to the EPS from J.P. Moreland at the reception, and a fruitful time of discussion during our plenary address provided by Tim O’Connor of Indiana University. I highly recommend reading his book from which the foundation of his presentation was derived (Theism and Ultimate Explanation: The Necessary Shape of Contingency (Blackwell Publishers).

In essence, Tim’s discussion was geared toward providing an account of ultimate explanation for contingency, where ultimate explanation is to be understood as involving no brute givens. Thus, limited explanations have their probative force derived from something else that not only requires no further explanation, but can have no further explanation. The purported upshot of finding an ultimate explanation is that it avoids an infinite regress of explanations concerning contingent phenomena. Second, ultimate explanation does not provide the necessary elbow room for “scientific” enterprises that postulate theoretical or actual multiverses which are themselves derivative of some universe generator. Indeed, the characteristics generally assigned to such a universe generator propose that it is either eternal or derivative of a beginningless structure, but it has the powers contained within itself to produce contingent phenomena. If we accept that the universe generator is a physical entity that produces universes in a contingent manner, then the physical laws governing it are still left unexplained–thus it cannot be an ultimate explanation of contingency.

Though the conversation was more rich and detailed, this sketch provides some insights into Tim’s work in his book and in our discussion. I will end my entry on his work here in virtue of the fact that his revised work from the EPS conference is already under contract for publication, and we want to honor that commitment. We also invite you to keep an eye out for Tim’s work on this topic. Our deepest appreciation must go out to Tim for the time he shared with us in the Big Easy.

In other news, the program committee for next year’s event has already uploaded a Call for Papers for the 2010 national meeting in Atlanta, GA at the EPS website. Our plenary speaker for that event will be Alvin Plantinga, who has recently retired from his teaching post at the University of Notre Dame. Given that Dr. Plantinga is one of the most formidable Christian scholars of the past century, we have high expectations that the event will be a great success. We hope to see you in Atlanta next November.