Richard Swinburne

Richard Swinburne

region = Western Philosophy
era = 20th-century philosophy
color = #B0C4DE

image_caption = 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 = Antony Flew, Keith Ward|

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.

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.

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::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 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.

Religious experience

winburne'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 a 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. From 1972 to 1985 he taught at Keele University. During part of this time, he gave the Gifford lectures at Aberdeen from 1982 to 1984, 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).

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. In 2007, Swinburne was awarded the James Joyce Award by the Literary and Historical Society of University College, Dublin.

Major books

* "The Concept of Miracle", 1970
* "The Coherence of Theism", 1977 (part 1 of his trilogy on Theism)
* "The Existence of God", 1979 (new edition 2004). (part 2 of his trilogy on Theism)
* "Faith and Reason", 1981 (new edition 2005). (part 3 of his trilogy on Theism)
* "The Evolution of the Soul", 1986, ISBN 0-19-823698-0. ( [
] )
* "Miracles", 1989.
* "Responsibility and Atonement", 1989 (part 1 of his tetralogy on Christian Doctrines)
* "Revelation", 1991 (part 2 of his tetralogy on Christian Doctrines)
* "The Christian God", 1994 (part 3 of his tetralogy on Christian Doctrines)
* "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 (part 4 of his tetralogy on Christian Doctrines)
* "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.)


cite book
last = Vardy
first = Peter
title = The Puzzle of God
publisher = Collins Sons and Co.
date = 1990
location =
pages = pp. 99-106

See also

* Theodicy in contemporary philosophy of religion
*List of science and religion scholars

External links

* [ Personal Homepage at Oxford University] - Includes a curriculum vitae and more complete list of publications
* [ Presentation at Gifford lectures]
* [ Radio interview] on Philosophy Talk

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