Ever since Darwin people have worried about the sceptical implications of evolution. If our minds are products of evolution like those of other animals, why suppose that the beliefs they produce are true, rather than merely useful? We consider this problem for beliefs in three different domains: religion, morality, and commonsense and scientific claims about matters of empirical fact. We identify replies to evolutionary scepticism that work in some domains but not in others. One reply is that evolution can be (...) expected to design systems that produce true beliefs in some domain. This reply works for commonsense beliefs and can be extended to scientific beliefs. But it does not work for moral or religious beliefs. An alternative reply which has been used defend moral beliefs is that their truth does not consist in their tracking some external state of affairs. Whether or not it is successful in the case of moral beliefs, this reply is less plausible for religious beliefs. So religious beliefs emerge as particularly vulnerable to evolutionary debunking. (shrink)
What are experts? Are there only experts in a subjective sense or are there also experts in an objective sense? And how, if at all, may non-experts recognize experts in an objective sense? In this paper, I approach these important questions by discussing Alvin I. Goldman's thoughts about how to define objective epistemic authority and about how non-experts are able to identify experts. I argue that a multiple epistemic desiderata approach is superior to Goldman's purely veritistic approach.
In his recent two volumes on epistemology, Alvin Plantinga surveys contemporary theories of knowledge thoroughly, and carefully defends an externalist epistemology. He promises that in a third volume, Warranted Christian Belief, he will present John Calvin's sensus divinitatis as an epistemic module akin to sense perception, a priori knowledge, induction, testimony and other epistemic modules. Plantinga defines the sensus divinitatis as a ‘many sided disposition to accept belief in God (or propositions that immediately and obviously entail the existence of (...) God) in a variety of circumstances’. Like other epistemic modules, it produces beliefs in an appropriate cognitive environment, aims at the production of true beliefs, and generates beliefs which have a high statistical probability of being true. (shrink)
In this article, I argue that Wang Yangming'sNeo-Confucian religious beliefs can bewarranted, and that the rationality of hisreligious beliefs constitutes a significantdefeater for the rationality of Christianbelief on Alvin Plantinga's theory of warrant. I also question whether the notion of warrantas proper function can adequately account fortheories of religious knowledge in which theaffections play an integral role. Idemonstrate how a consideration of Wang'sepistemology reveals a difficulty forPlantinga's defense of the rationality ofChristian belief and highlights a limitation ofPlantinga's current conception (...) of warrant asproper function. (shrink)
In his recent work in social epistemology, Alvin Goldman argues that truth is the fundamental epistemic end of education, and that critical thinking is of merely instrumental value with respect to that fundamental end. He also argues that there is a central place for testimony and trust in the classroom, and an educational danger in over-emphasizing the fostering of students’ critical thinking. In this paper I take issue with these claims, and argue that (1) critical thinking is a fundamental (...) end of education, independently of its instrumental tie to truth, and (2) it is critical thinking, rather than testimony and trust,that is educationally basic. (shrink)
Few thinkers have had as much impact on contemporary philosophy as has Alvin Plantinga. The work of this quintessential analytic philosopher has in many respects set the tone for the debate in the fields of modal metaphysics and epistemology and he is arguably the most important philosopher of religion of our time. In this volume, a distinguished team of today’s leading philosophers address the central aspects of Plantinga’s philosophy - his views on natural theology; his responses to the problem (...) of evil; his contributions to the field of modal metaphysics; the controversial evolutionary argument against naturalism; his model of epistemic warrant and his view of epistemic defeat; and his recent work on mind-body dualism. Also included is an appendix containing Plantinga’s often referred to, but previously unpublished, lecture notes entitled 'Two Dozen (or so) Theistic Arguments', with a substantial preface to the appendix written by Plantinga specifically for this volume. (shrink)
In May 2010, philosophers, family and friends gathered at the University of Notre Dame to celebrate the career and retirement of Alvin Plantinga, widely recognized as one of the world's leading figures in metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of religion. Plantinga has earned particular respect within the community of Christian philosophers for the pivotal role that he played in the recent renewal and development of philosophy of religion and philosophical theology. Each of the essays in this volume engages with (...) some particular aspect of Plantinga's views on metaphysics, epistemology, or philosophy of religion. Contributors include Michael Bergman, Ernest Sosa, Trenton Merricks, Richard Otte, Peter VanInwagen, Thomas P. Flint, Eleonore Stump, Dean Zimmerman and Nicholas Wolterstorff. The volume also includes responses to each essay by Bas van Fraassen, Stephen Wykstra, David VanderLaan, Robin Collins, Raymond VanArragon, E. J. Coffman, Thomas Crisp, and Donald Smith. (shrink)
For the past 30 years, Alvin Plantinga's work in the metaphysics of modality has been both insightful and innovative; it is high time that his papers in this area be collected together in a single volume. This book contains 11 pieces of Plantinga's work in modal metaphysics, arranged in chronological order so one can trace the development of his thought on matters modal. In what follows I will lay out the principal concepts and arguments in these papers.
Arguably, the most philosophically nuanced defense of a Felix Culpa theodicy, born out of serious theological reflection, is to be found in Alvin Plantinga’srecent article entitled “Superlapsarianism, or ‘O Felix Culpa.’” In this paper I look at Plantinga’s argument for the necessity of evil as a means to God’s fargreater ends and raise four objections to it. The arguments I give are aimed at the theological adequacy of explaining the emergence of evil as a functionalgood. I conclude that Plantinga’s (...) Felix Culpa approach fails to demonstrate the necessity of evil for heightened intimacy with God, and collides with agent-centeredconsiderations. Moreover, I argue that all Felix Culpa theodicies reverse the apparent value God places on means and ends in the economy of salvation, while lending to evil a potentially morally and theologically distorting rational legitimacy. (shrink)
In Warranted Christian Belief, Alvin Plantinga makes use of his earlier two books, Warrant: the Current Debate and Warrant and Proper Function, to show how it is possible for someone to have a warranted belief that God exists and that all of the great things of the Christian Gospel are true even if the believer is unable to give any argument to support these beliefs. Three objections are lodged against Plantinga’s position. First, the alleged sensus divinitatis and the internal (...) instigation of the Holy Spirit are crucially disanalogous to the cognitive faculties, such as memory and perception, in the standard package, thereby destroying his argument based on an analogy between the former and the latter. Second, in order to defeat defeaters for these beliefs one must give arguments, thus merely relocating the point at which the believer must produce argumentative support for her belief. Third, there are moral defeaters for exclusivist basic theistic and Christian beliefs based on the undesirable consequences of such beliefs. (shrink)
James Beilby’s Epistemology as Theology is the first monograph to address Alvin Plantinga’s completed Warrant Trilogy. The book provides a thorough introduction to Plantinga’s current religious epistemology, but readers hoping for a critical treatment of Plantinga will be largely disappointed: while Beilby does level criticisms against Plantinga, he often underestimates their significance. One of Beilby’s main goals is to sketch out how a version of Reformed epistemology, even if not exactly Plantinga’s version, can withstand its critics. I provide a (...) chapter-by-chapter examination of Beilby’s book, and argue his defense of Reformed epistemology is not obviously a significant improvement over Plantinga’s. (shrink)
Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief (2000) is the capstone to the latest stage in his views on the intellectual credibility of theism in general, and Christian theism in particular. While Plantinga’s stature in the community of Christian philosophers alone makes gaining familiarity with this text a good idea for contemporary analytic philosophers of religion, its vigorous, innovative defense of specifically Christian theism and daring suggestions for renovating the landscape of analytic philosophy of religion merit serious consideration. I aim to (...) provide a useful introduction to the book’s contents and critique some of its main claims. (shrink)
Alvin Goldman's recent collection (Goldman, 1992) includes many of the important and seminal contributions made by him over the last three decades to epistemology, philosophy of mind, and analytic metaphysics. Goldman is an acknowledged leader in efforts to put material from cognitive and social science to good philosophical use. This is the “liaison” which Goldman takes his own work to exemplify and advance. Yet the essays contained in Liaisons chart an important evolution in Goldman's own views about the relation (...) between philosophy and empirical inquiry. Goldman raises, if only unwittingly, the question of what philosophy per se contributes to the encounter. The way in which Goldman's work problematizes the claim that philosophy forms a working liaison with the cognitive and social sciences is revealed by examining two sets of distinctions prominent in Goldman's analyses in this volume. I trace how each pair of terms—philosophy versus science, individual versus social—is used by Goldman and suggest that it is less clear than one would like how these key notions are or could be distinguished from one another. Doubts about these distinctions, at least as Goldman employs them, suggest more general concerns regarding Goldman's style of naturalism and the status of philosophy as a source of knowledge. Liaisons: philosophy meets the cognitive and social sciences , A. Goldman. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992. (shrink)
Internalists have criticised reliabilism for overlooking the importance of the subject's point of view in the generation of knowledge. This paper argues that there is a troubling ambiguity in the intuitive examples that internalists have used to make their case, and on either way of resolving this ambiguity, reliabilism is untouched. However, the argument used to defend reliabilism against the internalist cases could also be used to defend a more radical form of externalism in epistemology.
By taking ‘existence in reality’ to be a great-making property and ‘God’ to be the greatest possible being, Plantinga skillfully presents Anselm’s ontological argument. However, since he proves God’s existence by virtue of a premise, “God (a maximally great being) is a possible being”, that is true only if God actually exists; his argument begs the question of the existence of God.
The Proper Functionist account of warrant – like many otherexternalist accounts – is vulnerable to certain Gettier-style counterexamples involving accidentally true beliefs. In this paper, I briefly survey the development of the account, noting the way it was altered in response to such counterexamples. I then argue that Alvin Plantinga's latest amendment to the account is flawed insofar as it rules out cases of true beliefs which do intuitively strike us as knowledge, and that a conjecture recently put forward (...) by Thomas Crisp is also defective. I conclude by presenting my own suggestion as to how the account can be made less vulnerable to counterexamples involving accidentally true beliefs. Although I stay within the confines of Proper Functionism here, I think that my proposal (modulo a few details) could be attached to other externalist accounts of warrant as well. -/- . (shrink)
Alvin Plantinga says that according to classical Muslim, Jewish, and Christian belief, God is a person. (He spells out some of the characteristics of people as such.) In this rather messy little note I try to show that some of the best, most influential, Christian theologians, prior to the Reformation, did not think that God is literally a person (in Plantinga’s sense). In particular I focus on Anselm.
Religious diversity is a key topic in contemporary philosophy of religion. One way religious diversity has been of interest to philosophers is in the epistemological questions it gives rise to. In other words, religious diversity has been seen to pose a challenge for religious belief. In this study four approaches to dealing with this challenge are discussed. These approaches correspond to four well-known philosophers of religion, namely, Richard Swinburne, Alvin Plantinga, William Alston, and John Hick. The study is concluded (...) by suggesting four factors which shape one’s response to the challenge religious diversity poses to religious belief. (shrink)
Plantinga starts by outlining an apparent conflict between certain claims of methodologically naturalist science and Christian faith. The conflict is not a logical contradiction, at least not once we are dealing with the more cautious “minus” versions of the doctrines, but some weaker relation such as the rational impossibility of believing both. 2. Scepticism about Simonian science..
‘Epistemics: an enterprise linking traditional epistemology, first with cognitive science and, second, with social scientific and humanistic disciplines that explore the interpersonal and cultural processes impinging on knowledge and belief’ (Epistemology and Cognition, p. vii).
This book consists of an introduction by the editor, eleven of Plantinga’s previously published pieces, and an index. The previously published works are presented in the following chronological order: “De Re et De Dicto” (1969); “World and Essence” (1970); “Transworld Identity or Worldbound Individuals?” (1973); Chapter VIII of The Nature of Necessity (1974); “Actualism and Possible Worlds” (1976); “The Boethian Compromise” (1978); “De Essentia” (1979); “On Existentialism” (1983); “Reply to John L. Pollock” (1985); “Two Concepts of Modality: Modal Realism and (...) Modal Reductionism” (1987); and “Why Propositions Cannot Be Concrete” (1993). (shrink)
Today we find philosophical naturalists and Christian theists both expressing an interest in virtue epistemology, while starting out from vastly different assumptions. What can be done to increase fruitful dialogue among these divergent groups of virtue-theoretic thinkers? The primary aim of this paper is to uncover more substantial common ground for dialogue by wielding a double-edged critique of certain assumptions shared by `scientific' and `theistic' externalisms, assumptions that undermine proper attention to epistemic agency and responsibility. I employ a responsibilist virtue (...) epistemology to this end, utilizing it most extensively in critique of Alvin Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief (2000). Epistemological externalism presages, I also argue, a new demarcation problem, but a secondary aim of the paper is to suggest reasons to think that `responsibilist externalism,' especially as glossed in virtue-theoretic terms, provides its proponents with the ability to adequately address this problem as we find it represented in a potent thought-experiment developed by Barry Stroud. (shrink)
Alvin Plantinga’s theory of knowledge, as developed in his Warrant trilogy, has shaped the debates surrounding many areas in epistemology in profound ways. Plantinga has received his share of criticism, however, particularly in his treatment of belief in God as being “properly basic”. There has also been much confusion surrounding his notions of warrant and proper function, to which Plantinga has responded numerous times. Many critics remain unsatisfied, while others have developed alternative understandings of warrant in order to rescue (...) Plantinga’s theory from certain objections. The most promising of such attempts fall under the broad category of “virtue epistemology” or a “virtue-theoretic” approach. The work being done in virtue epistemology is still in its early stages and a consensus on what actually constitutes virtue epistemology has yet to be reached. While some have attempted to structure an entire theory of knowledge based on the virtues possessed by the knower, others have focused more on the role of epistemic virtues as an attempt to supplement existing theories, including Plantinga’s. In this paper, I will offer an analysis of what such an attempt might look like and evaluate the potential success of broadening Plantinga’s original model. -/- My proposal is that certain features of a virtue-theoretic approach (also referred to as “agent-reliabilism”) could improve Plantinga’s model in significant ways. Not only would such a broadened approach be better equipped to handle common objections, but it would also be better suited to contribute an enhanced understanding of the task of epistemology, one that seeks to discover multiple epistemic goods other than what has been traditionally confined to the realm of knowledge. I conclude by applying this approach to Plantinga’s treatment of theistic belief in Warranted Christian Belief and by articulating a few of the ways in which epistemic virtues can increase the degree of warrant enjoyed by such belief. (shrink)
Alvin Plantinga defends Theological Compatibilism (TC) and Essential- ism about property possession (E). TC is the claim that human freedom to act otherwise and God’s essential omniscience are compatible, while E is the claim that every individual entity whatsoever has a modal profile consisting in having both essential and accidental properties. I purport to show that, if E is assumed in the argument for TC, then the latter leads to a very puzzling upshot. I also intend to show that, (...) even if TC is suitably fixed in order to avoid that upshot, TC is still unconvincing in that it merges into one the de re and the de dicto rendering of ‘human freedom to act otherwise’; I end up by briefly sketching why the two renderings should instead be kept well apart. (shrink)
Alvin Plantinga says that according to classical Muslim, Jewish, and Christian belief, God is a person. (He spells out some of the characteristics of people as such.) In this rather messy little note I try to show that some of the best, most influential, Christian theologians, prior to the Reformation, did not think that God is literally a person (in Plantinga’s sense). In particular I focus on Anselm. -/- .