Professor Peter van Inwagen received his B.S. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in 1969. He taught at Syracuse University for twenty-four years. Since leaving Syracuse in 1995, he has been the John Cardinal O’Hara Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He has given the Maurice Lectures at Kings College, London, the Wilde Lectures at Oxford, the Stewart Lectures at Princeton, and the Gifford Lectures at St Andrews. In 2005, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2011, he was awarded an honorary doctorate (divinity) by the University of St Andrews.
Professor van Inwagen is currently working almost entirely in metaphysics, and indeed, he says, in the most abstract and recondite part of metaphysics: the part that is concerned with the concepts of being and existence, and with the problem of describing the most general categories into which things fall. One among several of his central concerns in this area can be summed up in three closely related questions: Do mathematical and other “abstract” objects exist in any sense of ‘exist’?; If they do exist in some sense, is that sense is the same sense as the sense in which ordinary visible and tangible objects exist? Assuming once more that they do exist in some sense, how are they related to ordinary visible and tangible objects?
Professor van Inwagen says that almost all of his writings on religious topics are in one way or another apologetic in the original sense of the term. That is, they are defenses of various religious beliefs in the face of particular intellectual attacks. Typically, he has been moved to write on some religious topic because someone—a philosopher, a scientist, a biblical critic—has presented some argument against some essential Christian doctrine. He has written on “science and religion” only insofar as some people (sometimes they are scientists, but often they are not) have presented arguments for some anti-Christian conclusion that are supposed to be, in some sense, based on science. In Professor van Inwagen’s experience, however, although these arguments of course contain premises drawn from the sciences—from physics, from cosmology, from evolutionary biology—they are always, when taken as a whole, philosophical arguments and are subject to philosophical evaluation. In every case he knows of, they are bad philosophical arguments and lend no support whatever to their conclusions. His writings on “science and religion” are therefore essentially attempts to point out the flaws in arguments of that sort.
Publications in Philosophy
- “Names for Relations”, Philosophical Perspectives, Vol. 20: Metaphysics (2006) pp. 453-477.
- “Can Mereological Sums Change Their Parts?”, The Journal of Philosophy 103 (2006), pp. 614-630.
- “McGinn on Existence”, The Philosophical Quarterly 58 (2008), pp. 36-58.
- “Quine’s 1946 Lecture on Nominalism”, Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Vol. IV, 2008, pp. 125-142; reprinted in Italian translation in Collana di filosofia 2009, pp. 17-32
- “The New Anti-Metaphysicians”, Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association Vol 83 no 2 (2009) , pp. 45-61 (American Philosophical Association Central Division Presidential Address).
- “Being, Existence, and Ontological Commitment”, in D. J. Chalmers, D. Manley, and R. Wasserman (eds.) Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 472-506.
- “We’re Right. They’re Wrong.”, in Richard Feldman and Ted A. Warfield (eds.) Disagreement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 10-28.
- “Metaphysics”, article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [an on-line encyclopedia], http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/metaphysics/
- “Answers to five questions about metaphysics”, in Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen (ed.) Metaphysics: 5 Questions (Automatic Press / VIP, 2010) pp. 179-185.
- “Impotence and Collateral Damage: One Charge in Van Fraassen’s Indictment of Analytical Metaphysics”, Philosophical Topics 35 (2007), pp. 67-82 [This number of Philosophical Topics appeared in 2010).
Publications in Science and Religion
- “Genesis and Evolution”, included in Reasoned Faith, Eleonore Stump (ed.), (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), pp. 93-127; reprinted in Paul Helm (ed.) Faith & Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 267-273 (selection).
- “The Compatibility of Darwinism and Design”, in God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science, Neil Manson (ed.), (London and New York: Routledge, 2003) pp. 348-363.
- “Reply to Sean Carroll”, Faith and Philosophy 22 (2005), pp. 636-640.
- “Explaining Belief in the Supernatural: Some Thoughts on Paul Bloom’s ‘Religious Belief as an Evolutionary Accident’”, in J. Schloss and M. Murray (eds.) The Believing Primate: Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Reflections on the Origin of Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 128-138.
- “Weak Darwinism”, in Louis Caruana (ed.) Darwin and Catholicism (London: T&T Clark, 2009), pp. 107-120.
- “Dio e la scienza: una perspettiva filosofica”, in Dianora Citi (ed.) Dio oggi (Sienna: Edizioni Cantagalli, 2010), pp. 203-221.