A few days ago I posted my review of philosopher John L. Schellenberg’s fine book The Hiddenness Argument: Philosophy’s New Challenge to Belief in God. Professor Schellenberg emailed me a response this morning and he has agreed to have it posted here. So without further ado, here is Professor Schellenberg:
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I’ve now taken a longer look at your review. Thanks again for the kind words, and for the signs of charitable intent. Thanks also for mentioning ‘ultimism’ and (one aspect of) its significance. That term is the tip of a submerged iceberg. I mean the larger part of my work in philosophy of religion. Because this hasn’t received as much attention as my work on hiddenness — in my opinion, at least in part because people in our part of the world are still quite non-philosophically obsessed with things theistic — it is often assumed that I’ve been hammering away at hiddenness all these years. But in fact that topic has received less than one-third of my time in philosophy, and I would regard the other work as more important.
As for your objection to my hiddenness argument: it is cleverly developed. But, first, you mistakenly present it as an objection to premise 2. Given how the relevant terms are defined, 2 is necessarily true, and 1 is your proper target. Second, there is, curiously, no attempt — either in your review or in the discussion at your blog — to determine how, from within the resources summarized in my book, I might seek to deal with this objection. (Given the previous point, one must now say “…with this objection, regarded as an objection to 1.”) As it happens, the book supplies more than one way of arguing that such a move is unsuccessful — I won’t spell these out here, since it was to avoid doing this sort of thing that I wrote the book! I do see heavy reliance in the blog discussion on thoughts opposed to the argument, such as the thought that a possibility of the sort required will be quite easy to come by, and the (related) thought that the hiddenness argument is best construed non-deductively. But coming before any real engagement with what the book suggests in support of itself, such moves are in danger of begging the question.
There is a general point here. This is that critical interaction with a philosopher’s work is fully charitable and likely to further inquiry only when, exercising intellectual empathy, one takes into account how the criticism and its prospects are likely to appear to that philosopher. Unfortunately, the point is applicable fairly generally too. So you needn’t feel that I have only you and your blogging companions in mind when making it!