Skip to main content


Showing posts from June, 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, a…

Plantinga's Curious Reply to Lehrer's "Truetemp" Counterexample

In a previous post, we saw that Keith Lehrer raised a variation of his famous "truetemp" counterexample to the sufficiency of Plantinga's proposed analysis of warrant. Here is Plantinga's reply:

"As I see it, Truetemp has a defeater for his belief in the fact that (as he no doubt thinks) he is constructed like other human beings and none of them has this ability; furthermore, everyone he meets scoffs or smiles at his claim that he does have it. Truetemp's defeater means that his belief does not meet the conditions for warrant; hence (contra Lehrer) he doesn't constitute a counterexample to my analysis of warrant." (Warrant in Contemporary Epistemology, p. 333).

So Plantinga's reply is that Truetemp's warrant-basic belief is defeated by an inference from two other things he knows: that (i) he is like other people and that (ii) these other people don't have a similar ability to form accurate beliefs about their own temperature in the basic…

Wunder's Critique of Plantinga's Argument from Proper Function to Theism

Notes on Tyler Wunder’s “Anti-Naturalism and Proper Function”, Religious Studies 44 (2008), pp. 209-224.

Plantinga's first argument: The Problem of Artifactual Paradigms
We can express the argument as follows: [1]There is a set of inter-definable terms related to the notion of proper function, e.g., purpose, function, dysfunction, damage, (non-statistical) normality, and design. [2]The literal, primary meaning of such terms is fixed by the set of clear, unambiguous, paradigm cases to which the term applies. But [3]such cases are all of intelligently designed things – artifacts--, and not natural organisms or their parts. Therefore, [4]the notion of intelligent design is constitutive of the literal, primary meaning of such terms. But [5]naturalism entails that organisms and their parts are not intelligently designed. Therefore, [6]if naturalism is true, then ‘proper function’ and related terms are not literally applicable to organisms or their parts. But [7]organisms and their pa…

Bardon vs. Plantinga on Naturalistic Accounts of Proper Function

I'm currently working up some notes on Adrian Bardon's “Reliabilism, Proper Function, and Serendipitous Malfunction”, Philosophical Investigations 30:1 (Jan. 2007), pp. 47-64. Here's a draft of what I have so far (which is a bit rough and incomplete). What is primarily of interest to me is his nice reply to Plantinga's arguments against the prospects of a naturalistic analysis of function.

1. Plantinga’s Case for Preferring Proper Functionalism Over Straight Reliabilism
1.1 Setup: Goldmanian reliabilism explicated
1.1.1 first condition: the relevant cognitive processes must yield a high ratio of true beliefs
1.1.2 second condition: local reliability: the faculties must also be able to discriminate: they wouldn’t cause one to believe in counterfactual situations where the belief is false
1.2 Plantinga’s criticism:
1.2.1 mere reliability isn’t sufficient for warrant
1.2.2 this is because a cognitive processes can be merely accidentally reliable, due to a serendipitous malfunc…

Another Counterexample to Plantinga's Proper Functionalism

This one is from leading epistemologist Richard Feldman (“Proper Functionalism,” Nous 27 (1993), pp. 34-50). His is a modification of one of Plantinga's own counterexamples to the sufficiency of pure reliabilist accounts of knowledge.[1] Plantinga's counterexample to reliabilism goes as follows:

"Suppose I am struck by a burst of cosmic rays, resulting in the following unfortunate malfunction. Whenever I hear the word 'prime' in any context, I form a belief, with respect to a randomly chosen natural number less than 100,000, that it is not prime. So you say "Pacific Palisades is prime residential area" or "Prime ribs is my favorite"...; I form a belief, with respect to a randomly selected natural number between 1 and 100,000 that it is not prime. The process or mechanism in question is indeed reliable (given the vast preponderance of non-primes...) but my belief -- that, say, 41 is not prime -- has little or no positive epistemic status. The p…

Liberal Naturalism and the Defeat of the Theistic Hypothesis

Ok, the post title is a bit of hyperbole (intentionally employed to attract attention and discussion). But I'd like to propose a version of naturalism that seems to explain the relevant range of data better theism. To be a tad more precise: there is a prima facie viable version of naturalism that (a) explains the data appealed to in theistic arguments at least as well as theism, and (b) there is a range of other data that is better explained by this version of naturalism than by theism.

Thus, consider the following hypothesis, which I'll call 'Chalmersian Liberal Naturalism' (in honor of the contemporary philosopher David Chalmers, who appears to accept a view somewhat similar to it. Call the view 'CLN' for short):

(CLN) There are both abstract objects and concrete objects. The abstract objects are eternal, necessary beings. All concrete objects are composed of just one kind of substance, and its essence has both physical and phenomenal or proto-phenomenal (or at…

On a Common Apologetic Strategy

I. A Common Apologetic Strategy Many apologetic critiques of naturalism share a common basic strategy: point to a piece of data (e.g., abstract objects, morality, consciousness, the apparent fine-tuning of the universe, the apparent contingency of the universe, etc.), say that it doesn't fit in the naturalist's sparse ontology, and then argue that the data is better explained on the hypothesis of theism. Call this form of argumentation The Common Apologetic Strategy.
What to make of arguments that instantiate The Common Apologetic Strategy? Instead of evaluating particular instances of this strategy -- i.e., evaluating this or that theistic argument from morality, or consciousness, or cosmic fine-tuning, etc. -- I'd like to raise a worry about the general line of reasoning such arguments take, as outlined above. In order to do so, I'll need to spend some time making some basic distinctions. This in turn will provide a framework that (I hope) will help in evaluating suc…