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Evan Fales


B. A. Haverford College, 1964, Physics
M. A. Temple University, 1971, Philosophy
Ph.D. Temple University, 1974, Philosophy

Teaching Positions

Physics Teacher, Scattergood School, West Branch, Iowa, 1967-69
Assistant Professor, University of Iowa, 1974-79
Associate Professor, University of Iowa, 1979-present

Honors and Awards

University Fellowship, Temple University, 1969-70, 1973-74
Old Gold Summer Fellowship, University of Iowa, 1978, 1981
Interdisciplinary Research Grant, University of Iowa, 1987



  1. Causation and Universals (Routledge, 1990).
  2. Genes and Human Self-Knowledge, coedited with Robert Weir and Susan Lawrence (University of Iowa Press, 1994).
  3. A Defense of the Given, Studies in Epistemology and Cognitive Theory (Rowman and Littlefield, 1996).

Journal Articles

"Definite Descriptions as Designators," Mind, April 1976, 225-238.

"Donnellan on Definite Descriptions," with Joseph Margolis, Philosophia, June 1976, 289-302.

"Truth, Tradition, and Rationality," Philosophy of the Social Sciences, June 1976, 97-113.

"The Ontology of Social Roles," Philosophy of the Social Sciences, June 1977, 139-161, to be reprinted in Microsociology: A Book of Readings, Jacek Szmatka, ed., PWN--Polish Scientific Publishers, forthcoming.

"Theoretical Simplicity and Defeasibility," Philosophy of Science, June 1978, 273-288.

"Opacity in the Attitudes," Canadian Journal of Philosophy, December 1978, 725-752.

"Relative Essentialism," The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, December 1979, 349-370.

"Uniqueness and Historical Laws," Philosophy of Science, June 1980, 260-276.

"Must Sociology be Qualitative?," and "Reply to Professor Brown," Qualitative Sociology, invited paper, Summer 1982, 89-105, and 145-146.

"Natural Kinds and Freaks of Nature," Philosophy of Science, March 1982, 67-90.

"Generic Universals," The Australasian Journal of Philosophy, March, 1982, 29-39.

"Davidson's Compatibilism," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, December 1984, 227-246.

"Causation and Induction," Midwest Studies in Philosophy, invited paper, Vol. IX, 1984, 113-134.

"Essentialism and the Elementary Constituents of Matter," Midwest Studies in Philosophy, invited paper, Vol. XI, 1986, 391-402.

"How to be a Metaphysical Realist," Midwest Studies in Philosophy, invited paper, Vol. XII, 1988, 253-274.

"Antediluvian Theodicy: Stump on the Fall," Faith and Philosophy, 6, 1989, 320-329.

"Should God Have Not Created Adam?," Faith and Philosophy, 9, 1992, 193-209.

"Causal Knowledge: What Can Psychology Teach Philosophers?," with Edward A. Wasserman, The Journal of Mind and Behavior, Spring 1992.

"Are Causal Laws Contingent?" in Ontology, Causality, and Mind: Essays in Honour of D. M. Armstrong, Keith Campbell, John Bacon, and Lloyd Reinhardt, eds., Cambridge University Press, 1993.

"Are Christians Obliged to Be Pacifists?" Faith and Philosophy, 1994.

"Divine Freedom and the Choice of a World," International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 35, April 1994, 65-88.

"Plantinga's Case Against Naturalistic Epistemology."

"Mystical Experience as Evidence," International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 1996.

"Scientific Explanations of Mystical Experience, Part I: The Case of St. Teresa," Religious Studies, September 1996.

"Scientific Explanations of Mystical Experience, Part II: The Challenge to Theism," Religious Studies, December 1996.

"Divine Intervention."

"Social Action at a Distance? Giving Far-Fetched Theories Their Due" with Barry Markovsky.


"Review of Geoffrey Hunter, 'Metalogic: An Introduction to the Metatheory of Standard First Order Logic,'" The Review of Metaphysics, September 1971, 127.

"Review of Richard Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature," Philosophy of the Social Sciences, December 1983, 524-529.

"Review of Paul Davies' Other Worlds," with Timothy Eastman, coauthor, Foundations of Physics, January 1984, 89-99.

"Review of Michael Luntley's Language, Logic and Experience: The Case for Anti-Realism," Canadian Philosophical Reviews IX, No. 11, (1989), 448-451.

"Review of Michael Tooley's Causation: A Realist Approach," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 50, No. 3, (1990), 605-610.

"Review of David Owens' Causes and Coincidences" Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

"Review of Alvin Plantinga's Warrant and Proper Function," Mind, 103, (1994), 391-395.

Published on the Secular Web

Modern Library

Is Faith a Path to Knowledge?

In this paper Evan Fales considers whether (religious) faith has any role to play in conferring positive epistemic status to (especially religious) beliefs. He outlines several conceptions of faith that have been historically important within Western religious traditions. He then considers what role faith might be supposed to play, so understood, within the framework of internalist and externalist accounts of knowledge. His general conclusion is that, insofar as faith itself is a justified epistemic attitude, it requires justification and acquires that justification only through the regular faculties for contingent truths: sense perception and reason. Fales also argues that the operations of our cognitive faculties in arriving at epistemic judgments on matters of substance are sufficiently complex, subtle, and often temporally prolonged, to make it exceptionally difficult to reconstruct the cognitive process and to judge whether it meets standards of rationality.

Animadversions on Kitzmiller v. Dover: Correct Ruling, Flawed Reasoning

In his recent opinion on the legality of teaching intelligent design in the classroom (Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School Board), Judge John Jones correctly found against Dover, but did so by employing mistaken premises. Two unsound arguments appear in Section 4 of Kitzmiller, "Whether ID is Science." The first argument seeks to establish that ID is not a science by showing that it invokes supernatural causes outside of the purview of science. The second argument purports to show that even successful criticisms of Darwinism do not constitute evidence for ID. Neither flaw enhances the scientific credentials of ID, but each bolsters the erroneous perception that Darwinists assume as a matter of faith that either supernatural causes do not exist, or else cannot be investigated scientifically. A natural implication of this erroneous perception is that Darwinism is simply an alternative kind of faith, but in fact both Darwinism and many supernaturalistic hypotheses are amenable to empirical test.

Despair, Optimism, and Rebellion

In this contribution to an American Philosophical Association symposium on "God, Death, and the Meaning of Life," Evan Fales considers three responses to loss of faith in the Christian God: despair, optimism, and rebellion. Western culture is permeated by belief in an afterlife on religious grounds, shaping these responses in particularly anxious ways. Fales considers both how atheists can respond to the question of the meaning of life, and, in what is surely a surprising direction for some, whether Christianity even has the resources to provide meaning through doctrines as problematic as requiring another to pay for your own sins. In July 2007 Fales updated this paper for the Secular Web by expanding his discussion of reasons to doubt the moral acceptability of another person (such as Jesus) absolving individuals of responsibility for their sins (or wrongdoings) through sacrifice, substitution, or by serving as a moral exemplar.

Do Mystics See God?

"Theistic philosophers have perennially cited mystical experiences—experiences of God—as evidence for God’s existence and for other truths about God. In recent years, the attractiveness of this line of thought has been reflected in its use by a significant number of philosophers. But both philosophers and mystics agree that not all mystical experiences can be relied upon; many are the stuff of delusion. So they have somehow to be checked out, their bona-fides revealed."

Are the Gods Apolitical?

To the extent that loyalty to religious traditions, and appeal to religious authority, are analogous to an appeal to alien political traditions—to that extent a discountenancing of such appeals will be, by parity of reasoning, appropriate within a liberal democracy. Citizens should be free to pursue their religious commitments, so long as those are not incompatible with secular order; but religious reasons as such, not otherwise warrantable, have no place in our political discourse. That is not because they are not "political reasons", but precisely because they are—or are too close to being so. They retain, in spite of their historical divergence from politics, a structurally identical role for appeals to authority, tradition, legal precedent, group solidarity, and the like.