Monday, June 28, 2010

Plantinga's Reply to Bergmann on the EAAN vs. Plantinga's Reply to Draper's Evidential Argument from Evil: A Tension?

I raise the following worry for Plantinga's views as a means of getting clearer on them. The hope is that someone will straighten me out.

In response to Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturaism (EAAN), Christian philosopher Michael Bergmann argues[1] (roughly) that perceptual, mnemonic, introspective, testimonial, and a priori beliefs are properly warrant-basic, and thus enjoy a very high degree of warrant that is independent from propositional evidence. And since this is so, such beliefs are not defeated by probabilistic inferences against their reliability. Therefore, since Plantinga's EAAN is a probabilistic inference against the reliability of the naturalist's perceptual and other cognitive faculties, the latter does not defeat the naturalist's trust in them. Thus, the EAAN is a failure.

Plantinga's reply[2] is (even more roughly) that, no, the EAAN defeats the warrant enjoyed by the beliefs issuing from the naturalist's cognitive faculties, and thus Bergmann's criticism of the EAAN is unsuccessful.

Here's the thing, though: Plantinga's reply to Bergmann's objection to the EAAN appears to be in tension with his latest reply to Draper's evidential argument from evil.[3] For in "On Being Evidentially Challenged"[4] and in Warranted Christian Belief[5], Plantinga argues the opposite: probabilistic inferences can't undermine warrant-basic beliefs -- at least warrant-basic beliefs held with sufficient firmness.

So it appears that Plantinga wants to have it both ways. On the one hand, he wants to defeat naturalism by arguing that a probabilistic inference can defeat warrant-basic beliefs. But on the other hand, he wants to defend theism by arguing that probabilistic inferences cannot defeat warrant-basic beliefs. But it looks as though something has to give: either probabilistic inferences can undermine warrant-basic beliefs or they can't. If they can, then Plantinga's reply to Draper's evidential argument from evil fails. But if they can't, then it's not clear how Plantinga's EAAN could be an effective defeater for naturalism.
[1] “Commonsense Naturalism” in James Beilby (ed.), Naturalism Defeated? Essays on Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002), Pp. 61-90.
[2] "Reply to Beilby's Cohorts", in Beilby, Naturalism Defeated?, pp. 230-234.
[3] "Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists", Nous 23 (1989), pp. 331-350.
[4] in Howard-Snyder, ed. The Evidential Argument from Evil (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), pp. 244-261.
[5] Oxford: Oxford University Press (2000), pp. 469-481.


AIGBusted said...

I've found it puzzling that Plantinga is held in such high regard by so many philosophers. The arguments he makes are often very ridiculous, inconsistent with other things he says, or simply miss the point his opponents want to make.

Matt McCormick said...

Ouch, good eye, Ex. Nice tight conflict.


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