Skip to main content

Plantinga's Proper Functionalism Unmotivated

Plantinga argues that internalist accounts of warrant are inherently inadequate, and thus that some form of externalism must be correct. However, he also argues that standard versions of externalism -- e.g. Goldmanian reliabilism -- are inadequate as well, on the grounds that they can't account for the fact that a belief can't be warranted if it's formed by a mechanism or process that is only accidentally reliable:

"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 problem isn't simply that the belief is false; the same goes for my (true) belief that 631 is not prime, if it is formed in this fashion. So reliable belief formation is not sufficient for positive epistemic status." (Warrant: The Current Debate (OUP, 1993), p. 210.).

Plantinga then goes on to argue that an externalist about warrant can avoid the problem of accidental reliability if they go proper functionalist, as a properly functioning truth-aimed cognitive process or faculty precludes accidental reliability. Or so argues Plantinga.

However, Richard Feldman (“Proper Functionalism,” Nous 27 (1993), pp. 34-50) has constructed a variation on Plantinga's "primes" counterexample above to show that the problem of reliably-formed-yet-unwarranted beliefs arises for Plantinga's proper functionalist version of externalism as well. Thus, Feldman changes the counterexample so that the cause of the beliefs about primes is not a burst of cosmic rays, but rather a cognitive faculty formed by an intelligent designer who designs the person to naturally and spontaneously form such beliefs about prime numbers whenever they hear the word 'prime'. In such a case, all of Plantinga's conditions of warrant are satisfied: according to the thought experiment, we have a cognitive faculty that, when functioning properly, reliably produces sufficiently firmly-held true beliefs when in epistemically congenial environments. However, such beliefs have little by way of warrant.

Therefore, the conditions laid out in Plantinga's proper functionalism are not sufficient for warrant. And since his proper functionalist amendment to straight reliabilist externalism fails to rule out the problem cases he raises for the latter, the former appears to be unmotivated.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Epicurean Cosmological Arguments for Matter's Necessity

One can find, through the writings of Lucretius, a powerful yet simple Epicurean argument for matter's (factual or metaphysical) necessity. In simplest terms, the argument is that since matter exists, and since nothing can come from nothing, matter is eternal and uncreated, and is therefore at least a factually necessary being. 
A stronger version of Epicurus' core argument can be developed by adding an appeal to something in the neighborhood of origin essentialism. The basic line of reasoning here is that being uncreated is an essential property of matter, and thus that the matter at the actual world is essentially uncreated.
Yet stronger versions of the argument could go on from there by appealing to the principle of sufficient reason to argue that whatever plays the role of being eternal and essentially uncreated does not vary from world to world, and thus that matter is a metaphysically necessary being.
It seems to me that this broadly Epicurean line of reasoning is a co…

Notes on Mackie's "Evil and Omnipotence"

0. Introduction
0.1 Mackie argues that the problem of evil proves that either no god exists, or at least that the god of Orthodox Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, does not exist. His argument is roughly the same version of the problem of evil that we’ve been considering.
0.2 Mackie thinks that one can avoid the conclusion that God does not exist only if one admits that either God is not omnipotent (i.e., not all-powerful), or that God is not perfectly good. 0.3 However, he thinks that hardly anyone will be willing to take this route. For doing so leaves one with a conception of a god that isn’t worthy of worship, and therefore not religiously significant.
0.4 After his brief discussion of his version of the problem of evil, he considers most of the main responses to the problem of evil, and concludes that none of them work.

1. First Response and Mackie's Reply
1.1 Response: Good can’t exist without evil; evil is a necessary counterpart to good.
1.2 Mackie’s reply:
1.2.1 this see…

Notes on Swinburne, "On Why God Allows Evil"

Notes on Swinburne’s “Why God Allows Evil”

1. The kinds of goods a theistic god would provide: deeper goods than just “thrills of pleasure and times of contentment” (p. 90). For example:
1.1 Significant freedom and responsibility
1.1.1 for ourselves
1.1.2 for others
1.1.3 for the world in which they live
1.2 Valuable lives
1.2.1 being of significant use to ourselves
1.2.2 being of significant use to each other

2. Kinds of evil
2.1 Moral evil: all the evil caused or permitted by human beings, whether intentionally or through negligence (e.g., murder, theft, etc.)
2.2 Natural evil: all the rest: evil not caused or permitted by human beings (e.g., suffering caused by hurricanes, forest fires, diseases, animal suffering, etc.)

3. The gist of Swinburne’s answer to the problem of evil: God cannot – logically cannot -- give us the goods of significant freedom, responsibility and usefulness without thereby allowing for the possibility of lots of moral and natural evil. This is why he has al…