No question in the philosophy of religion, other than the question of whether God exists, is as important as the question of what God is like - of what the properties of God are.
Intimately connected with this question is a methodological one: how, using reason, can we hope to discover what God is like? In contemporary philosophy of religion and philosophical theology, there is very wide agreement that we can determine the properties of God via the principle that God is the greatest possible being. Roughly, the idea is that for any property, we can ask whether it would be better to have that property or to lack it; and, if it would be better to have that property, we conclude that, since God is the greatest possible being, God must have that property.
My aim in this project is to develop this method - the method of 'perfect being theology' - with more precision and detail than has been done by its advocates and to argue that it is fundamentally flawed. My aim is therefore to show that the methods currently in use for answering the question of what God is like need to be re-thought from the beginning, and to explore alternative methodologies for philosophical theology.
To carry out this project, I am requesting funding for two semesters of leave from teaching, two summers of funding for research, a modest travel stipend to present my research in three venues, and funding for a small workshop near the end of the project. During that time I will be devoting all of my working energy toward this project, other than time spent advising graduate students. I expect the research to produce one book and at least two research articles, to be submitted by the end of the grant period.
I expect this project to have two major impacts. First, I expect it to change the way that philosophers go about trying to answer questions about the nature of God. Second, I expect this methodological change to have consequences for our views about the nature of God.