Sunday, January 15, 2012

Quote(s) for the Day

“I, however, have not been blessed with Plantinga faith. I believe that I have been blessed enough to have had experiences that are in some ways like those Plantinga describes, but for me, the most I have received directly from the Holy Spirit have been gentle nudges toward belief, certainly nothing even approaching the firm and certain conviction of which Plantinga speaks. And if the people I’ve talked to are to be believed — and they are — there are many who would be thrilled to receive faith as Plantinga describes it, but who have not, despite Plantinga’s claim that faith — presumably as he defines it, as a firm and certain conviction — “is given to anyone who is willing to accept it”

-Keith DeRose, "Are Christian Beliefs Properly Basic?" APA Eastern talk, 1998. Available here.

"Plantinga's theological minimalism can be seen in the lack of applicability of his Extended A/C model to the faith of typical Christians. While he speaks a great deal about the recipients of faith, those who have had their religious affections cured and who have been given the divine gift of firm and certain belief in the great things of the gospel, it is far from clear whether there are any people whose faith looks like that in Plantinga's model . . .While it is undoubtedly easier to describe and defend the warrant of "epistemological saints", because the Extended A/C model describes the ideal, fully formed faith of paradigmatic believers rather than the usual, in-process faith of typical believers, Plantinga's attempt to use the Extended A/C model to provide a good way for Christians (including, I assume, typical Christians) to think about the epistemology of Christian belief is in jeopardy. Since the faith of typical believers looks very different from that described in Plantinga's model, they have a choice between questioning the warrant of their belief about God or rejecting Plantinga's model as a good explanation of the warrant of their religious beliefs. Since Plantinga himself argues that the beliefs of "most Christians" are "both externally rational and warranted", the most reasonable option for the typical Christian is the latter."

-James K. Beilby, "Plantinga's Model of Warranted Christian Belief", in Peter-Baker, Deane. Alvin Plantinga (Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 146.

(Andrew Chignell makes the same point in "Epistemology for Saints: Alvin Plantinga's Magnum Opus", Books & Culture, March/April 2002, p. 21)

The passages above underscore the point I'm getting at here: Plantinga's model of warranted belief states that a belief enjoys at least some degree of warrant if (and only if) it's produced by properly functioning, truth-aimed cognitive faculties operating in a congenial epistemic environment. However, it also states that the degree of warrant such a belief enjoys is a function of the degree of firmness or conviction with which it's held. But if so, then Plantinga's model entails if one's faith falls far short of "a firm and certain conviction", then it has little by way of warrant. And the worry is that the latter is the predicament of perhaps most Christians, in which case Plantinga's model entails that their beliefs have little by way of warrant (at least if they're not based on propositional evidence and argument).

4 comments:

soku said...

Nice quotes, ex.

Reuben said...

Agreed, those are a striking pair of picks. As you may recall Mother Teresa writing, "Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear." So much for the firm certainty of the earnest.

Reuben said...

Indeed. Recalling the words of Ma Teresa, "Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear." So much for the firm certainty of the earnest.

exapologist said...

Thanks, Soku.

Reuben: That's a painfully sad quote. The passages I quoted, as well as your quote, underscore the point I'm getting at here: Plantinga's model of warranted belief states that a belief enjoys at least some degree of warrant if (and only if) it's produced by properly functioning, truth-aimed cognitive faculties in a congenial epistemic environment. However, it also states that the degree of warrant such a belief enjoys is a function of the degree of firmness or conviction with which it's held. But if so, then if one's faith falls far short of "a firm and certain conviction", then it has little by way of warrant. And the worry is that the latter is the predicament of perhaps most Christians (at least for those who don't base their belief on propositional evidence and argument).

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