"Modern History" versions of the etiological theory claim that in order for a trait X to have the properfunction F, individuals with X must have been recently favored by natural selection for doing F (Godfrey-Smith 1994; Griffiths 1992, 1993). For many traits with prototypical proper functions, however, such recent selection may not have occurred: traits may have been maintained due to lack of variation or due to selection for other effects. I examine this flaw in Modern (...) History accounts and offer an alternative etiological theory, the Continuing Usefulness account, which appears to avoid such problems. (shrink)
A common line of thought in contemporary metaethics is that certain facts about the evolutionary history of humans make moral realism implausible. Two of the most developed evolutionary cases against realism are found in the works of Richard Joyce and Sharon Street. In what follows, I argue that a form of moral realism that I call proper-function moral realism can meet Joyce and Street's challenges. I begin by sketching the basics of proper-function moral realism. I then (...) present what I take to be the essence of Street's and Joyce's objections, and I show how proper-function realism answers them. (shrink)
In this companion volume to Warrant: The Current Debate, Plantinga develops an original approach to the question of epistemic warrant; that is what turns true belief into knowledge. He argues that what is crucial to warrant is the proper functioning of one's cognitive faculties in the right kind of cognitive environment.
Jonathan Kvanvig has argued that what he terms “doxastic” theories of epistemic justification fail to account for certain epistemic features having to do with evidence. I’m going to give an argument roughly along these lines, but I’m going to focus specifically on properfunction theories of justification or warrant. In particular, I’ll focus on Michael Bergmann’s recent properfunction account of justification, though the argument applies also to Alvin Plantinga’s properfunction account of warrant. (...) The epistemic features I’m concerned about are experiences that should generate a believed defeater but don’t. I’ll argue that proper functionalism as it stands cannot account for the epistemic effects of these defeating experiences—or, at least, that it can only do so by embracing a deeply implausible view of our cognitive faculties. I’ll conclude by arguing that the only plausible option Bergmann has for modifying his theory undercuts the consideration that motivates proper functionalism in the first place. (shrink)
Alvin Plantinga's externalist analysis of epistemic warrant centres on the properfunction of the relevant belief-forming mechanism, where properfunction is fixed relative to the design plan of the organism in question. He has set this analysis against reliabilism, the other leading externalist contender for the analysis of warrant. Though Plantinga's discussion advances the field of epistemology in a number of important ways, his treatment of warrant is limited by his assumption of creationism in his understanding (...) of design and function. Further, analyses of epistemic warrant focusing on function over reliability either fail at handling problem cases reliabilism can handle, or fail to improve on problem cases for reliabilism. Thus no proper functionalist analysis like Plantinga's can supersede a well-constructed reliabilist analysis. (shrink)
Designers’ intentions are important for determining an artifact’s properfunction (i.e., its perceived real function). However, there are disagreements regarding why. In one view, people reason causally about artifacts’ functional outcomes, and designers’ intended functions become important to the extent that they allow inferring outcomes. In another view, people use knowledge of designers’ intentions to determine proper functions, but this is unrelated to causal reasoning, having perhaps to do with intentional or social forms of reasoning (e.g., (...) authority). Regarding these latter social factors, researchers have proposed that designers’ intentions operate through a mechanism akin to social conventions, and that therefore both are determinants of properfunction. In the current work, participants learned about an object’s creation, about social conventions for its use and about a specific episode where the artifact was used. The function implemented by the user could be aligned with the designer’s intended function, the social convention, both, or neither (i.e., an opportunistic use). Importantly, the use episode always resulted in an accident. Data show that the accident negatively affected properfunction judgments and perceived efficiency for conventional and opportunistic functions, but not for designers’ intended functions. This is inconsistent with the view that designers’ intentions are conceptualized as causes of functional outcomes and with the idea that designers’ intentions and social conventions operate through a common mechanism. (shrink)
Language is both a biological and a cultural phenomenon. Our aim here is to discuss, in an evolutionary perspective, the articulation of these two aspects of language. For this, we draw on the general conceptual framework developed by Ruth Millikan (1984) while at the same time dissociating ourselves from her view of language.
Plantinga examines the nature of epistemic warrant; whatever it is that when added to true belief yields knowledge. This volume surveys current contributions to the debate and paves the way for his owm positive proposal in Warrant and ProperFunction.
Natural selection comes in degrees. Some biological traits are subjected to stronger selective force than others, selection on particular traits waxes and wanes over time, and some groups can only undergo an attenuated kind of selective process. This has downstream consequences for any notions that are standardly treated as binary but depend on natural selection. For instance, the properfunction of a biological structure can be defined as what caused that structure to be retained by natural selection in (...) the past. We usually think of proper functions in binary terms: storing bile is a function of the gall bladder, but making stones is not. However, if functions arise through natural selection, and natural selection comes in degrees, then a binary approach to proper functions is in tension with the biological facts. In order to resolve this tension, we need to revise our standard accounts of properfunction. In particular, we may have to seriously consider the possibility that functions themselves come in degrees, in spite of the ramifications this will have for the way we speak about functions and related concepts such as dysfunction, disease, and teleosemantic content. (shrink)
Alvin Plantinga’s Warrant and ProperFunction gives two major definitions of warrant. One states that reliable cognitive faculties aimed at true belief and functioning properly in the right environment are necessary and sufficient for warrant; the other definition only states that they are necessary. The latter definition is the more important one. There are different kinds of knowledge, and justification is necessary for some beliefs to be warranted. Even a belief warranted by properfunction can receive (...) a higher degree of warrant by justification. This implies that natural theology has a useful role within the contours of a Plantingian epistemology. (Please note that the pagination here does not match the pagination in the published edition.). (shrink)
Human beings form beliefs by way of a variety of psychological processes. Some of these processes of belief acquisition are innate; others are acquired. A good deal of interesting work has been done in assessing the reliability of these processes. Any such assessment must examine not only features intrinsic to the psychological processes themselves, but also features of the environments in which those processes are exercised; a mechanism which is reliable in one sort of environment may be quite unreliable in (...) others. This is true not only of the physical environment; it is true of the social environment as well. This has important implications for how we should think about the exercise of individual reason, as well as the interpersonal practice of giving and asking for reasons. (shrink)
The penultimate chapter of Alvin Plantinga's "Warrant and ProperFunction" attacks metaphysical naturalism through an argument which concludes that only a supernaturalistic worldview can accommodate the indispensable concept of properfunction. I make the case that this argument, which I dub 'the argument from properfunction', suffers from two major flaws. First, it underestimates the naturalist's ability to ground natural properfunction ascriptions in the concept of health. Second, it relies upon an (...) overly stringent standard for successful conceptual analysis; ironically, the naturalist can undercut the argument by adopting Plantinga's own recommended model for analysing concepts. (shrink)
On behalf of Millian views on the meaning of proper names, Mark Textor offers in 'Knowledge Transmission and Linguistic Sense' a suggestive critical discussion of an argument for Fregean views due to Richard Heck (1995). IWhat exactly Heck's argument is, however, is not very clear, as witnessed by Byrne & Thau's (1996) efforts at reconstructing it and Heck's (1996) reply to which is not terribly illuminating. After presenting a form of a Fregean view and a Heckian argument for it, (...) the paper argues that Texror's criticism, as addressed to that argument, is unsuccessful. (shrink)
Among psychiatric conditions, delusions have received significant attention in the philosophical literature. This is partly due to the fact that many delusions are bizarre, and their contents interesting in and of themselves. But the disproportionate attention is also due to the notion that by studying what happens when perception, cognition, and belief go wrong, we can better understand what happens when these go right. In this paper, I attend to delusions for the second reason—by evaluating the epistemology of delusions, we (...) can better understand the epistemology of ordinary belief. More specifically, given recent advancements in our understanding of how delusions are formed, the epistemology of delusions motivates a proper functionalist account of the justification of belief. Proper functionalist accounts of the justification of belief hold that whether a belief is justified is partly determined by whether the system that produces the belief is functioning properly. (shrink)
Michael Bergmann seeks to motivate his externalist, properfunction theory of epistemic justification by providing three objections to the mentalism and mentalist evidentialism characteristic of nonexternalists such as Richard Feldman and Earl Conee. Bergmann argues that (i) mentalism is committed to the false thesis that justification depends on mental states; (ii) mentalism is committed to the false thesis that the epistemic fittingness of an epistemic input to a belief-forming process must be due to an essential feature of that (...) input, and, relatedly, that mentalist evidentialism is committed to the false thesis that the epistemic fittingness of doxastic response B to evidence E is an essential property of B–E; and (iii) mentalist evidentialism is “unmotivated”. I object to each argument. The argument for (i) begs the question. The argument for (ii) suffers from the fact that mentalist evidentialists are not committed to the consequences claimed for them; nevertheless, I show that there is, in the neighborhood, a substantive dispute concerning the nature of doxastic epistemic fittingness. That dispute involves what I call “Necessary Fittingness”, the view that, necessarily, exactly one (at most) doxastic attitude ( belief , or disbelief , or suspension of judgment ) toward a proposition is epistemically fitting with respect to a person’s total evidence at any time. Reflection on my super-blooper epistemic design counterexamples to Bergmann’s properfunction theory reveals both the plausibility of Necessary Fittingness and a good reason to deny (iii). Mentalist evidentialism is thus vindicated against the objections. (shrink)
This paper presents a critical analysis of Alvin Plantinga’s recent contention, developed in Warranted Christian Belief (forthcoming), that if theism is true, then it is unlikely that religious unbelief is the product of properly functioning, truth-aimed cognitive faculties. More specifically, Plantinga argues that, given his own model of properly basic theistic belief, religious unbelief would always depend on cognitive malfunction somewhere in a person’s noetic establishment. I argue that this claim is highly questionable and has adverse consequences for Plantinga’s epistemology (...) of religious belief. Plantinga’s proper basicality thesis together with his view of rationality defeaters suggests that there are circumstances in which theistic belief would not be properfunction rational even if theism is true. (shrink)
A number of counterexamples have recently been leveled against Alvin Plantinga's Proper Functionalism, counterexamples aimed at showing that Plantinga's theory fads to provide sufficient conditions for warrant — that elusive epistemic property which together with true belief yields knowledge Among these counterexamples, Laurence Bonjour s is perhaps the most formidable and, if successful, shows that Proper Functionalism is simply too weak to serve as an acceptable theory of warrant In this paper, I argue that, contrary to initial appearances, (...) BonJour's counterexample is not successful More exactly, I argue that, once it is recognized that a defeasibility constraint is deeply embedded within Plantinga's properfunction condition for warrant — a constraint which says, in effect, that a belief B is warranted for an agent S only of S does not possess any defeaters against B — BonJour's counterexample to Proper Functionalism can be handled quite straightforwardly. (shrink)
It is suggested that Charles Sanders Peirce's triadic semiotics provides a framework for a diagrammatic representation of a sign's proper structure. The action of signs is described at the logical and psychological levels. The role of (unconscious) abductive inference is analyzed, and a diagram of reasoning is offered. A series of interpretants transform brute facts into interpretable signs thereby providing human experience with value or meaning. The triadic structure helps in de-mystifying the relations between Penrose's three worlds when the (...) latter are considered as constituting a semiotic triangle. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that what counts as the properfunction of a trait is a matter of the de facto perspective that the biological system, itself, possesses on what counts as proper functioning for that trait. Unlike non-perspectival accounts, internal perspectivalism does not succumb to generality problems. But unlike external perspectivalism, internal perspectivalism can provide a fully naturalistic, mind-independent grounding of properfunction and natural norms. The attribution of perspectives to biological systems is (...) intended to be neither metaphorical nor anthropomorphic: I do not mean to imply that such systems thereby must possess agency, cognition, intentions, concepts, or mental or psychological states. Instead, such systems provide the grounding for norms of performance when they internally enforce their own standard of (i.e., their own perspective on) what constitutes proper functioning or malfunctioning. By operating with a fixed, determinate level of generality, such systems provide the basis for an account of properfunction that is immune to generality problems. (shrink)
Alex Pruss argues that romantic love is a basic form of human love that is properly fulfilled in sex oriented towards reproduction. As a result, homoerotic sexual activity cannot obtain the proper consummation and therefore involves misunderstanding the other person’s nature and the possibility of union with them. Although same-sex sexual activity may feel like a consummation of romantic love, it is wrong to generate such a false experience in oneself or another. Presented is an apparent dilemma for Pruss’s (...) thesis suggesting that either both postmenopausal homosexuals and postmenopausal heterosexuals ought to be allowed to marry for their romantic love is not dysfunctional despite not being oriented towards reproduction, or that matrimony is inappropriate for both groups. I suggest avoiding the dilemma in either of two ways that would allow Pruss to distinguish the infertility of homosexual couples from the infertility of post-menopausal women. (shrink)
'Modern History' views claim that in order for a trait X to have the properfunction F, X must have been recently favored by natural selection for doing F (Griffiths 1992, 1993; Godfrey-Smith 1994). For many traits with prototypical proper functions, however, such recent selection may not have occurred, since traits may have been maintained owing to lack of variation or selection for other effects. I explore this flaw in Modern History accounts and offer an alternative etiological (...) theory, which I call the 'Continuing Usefulness' account. According to my view, a trait has the properfunction F if and only if, first, the trait was favored by selection for doing F at some point (perhaps far in the past), and, secondly, the trait has recently contributed to survival and reproduction by doing F. This separates the requirement involving natural selection from the one involving the recent past, two issues that the Modern History account conflates. The clear separation allows a detailed analysis of the causal judgments and form of adaptationism that ground the etiological approach to function. (shrink)
Plantinga thus offers an approach that begins by assessing the faculties or abilities of a cognitive system or agent. Once such an assessment is complete, the epistemologist is in a position to infer the epistemic status of the doxastic products of those faculties or abilities.
The survival enhancing propensity (SEP) account has a crucial role to play in the analysis of properfunction. However, a central feature of the account, its specification of the proper environment to which functions are relativized, is seriously underdeveloped. In this paper, I argue that existent accounts of proper environment fail because they either allow too many or too few characters to count as proper functions. While SEP accounts retain their promise, they are unworkable because (...) of their inability to specify this important feature. However, I suggest that this problem can be overcome by the application of a new strategy for specifying proper environment that is grounded in the operation of natural selection and I conclude by offering a first approximation of such an account. (shrink)