Friday, October 05, 2012

Contrarian Philosophy of Religion Assertion Friday

If theism is true, then (probably) none of our beliefs have warrant.

6 comments:

Chad said...

Quite obviously, nothing would be lost by restricting Plantinga's model in some way, say, to human beings, or embodied agents (a restriction which is clearly intended by the model. See WPF, p. 10, 14,... 50, et al), or organisms (p.30ff), or something like that. And it wouldn't be entirely ad hoc to say God does not have beliefs or that God can have knowledge without belief, given the precedent of theists who say this.

exapologist said...

Hi Chad,

It seems to me that a core point that Plantinga wants to make is that proper function is impossible without intelligent design. See, for example, Plantinga and Tooley, Knowledge of God: ". . . this notion, the notion of proper function, essentially involves the aims and intentions of one or more conscious and intelligent designers" (p. 29). Italics mine.

In addition, it seems to me that conceding that there's no essential connection between proper function and intelligent design would be a blow to his argument from proper function to theism.

Finally, it seems to me that such a concession would undermine the basis for a major species of design argument -- the sort advanced by (e.g.) Aquinas, Paley, and Behe et al. For if we get some functional complexity (watch or mousetrap complextity) "for free" (in God), then it seems to me that we lose a key basis for thinking bedrock features of the universe (or matter) can't possess functional complexity for free (a Humean point).

Best,
EA

Chad said...

Sorry Ex, I was signed in under my wife's name earlier.

Sure, there is an essential connection between proper function and design. But God’s cognitive faculties, if it is even proper to speak of God having cognitive faculties, would not be such that the model applies to them.

Even if it makes sense to speak of an unembodied, essentially omniscient mind functioning properly, it’s clear that an entirely new mode would be needed to explain how that works.

But now the problem is that if God’s mind gets a pass out of having to be designed, why not the original phenomena in question (i.e., our minds)? The answer is that the latter essentially exhibit features that entail design (ccording to Plantinga’s model), whereas the former does not. To sustain he argument, it seems to me you’d need to argue that God’s mind essentially exhibits the same features. That’d be an interesting argument, but so far it’s in potentia.

exapologist said...

Hi Chad,

Sure, there is an essential connection between proper function and design. But God’s cognitive faculties, if it is even proper to speak of God having cognitive faculties, would not be such that the model applies to them.

Even if it makes sense to speak of an unembodied, essentially omniscient mind functioning properly, it’s clear that an entirely new mode would be needed to explain how that works.


I'm not sure I follow you here. Why wouldn't the idea of proper function not apply to God's cognitive faculties?

Chad said...

Sorry, I tried posting this a while back, but I see that for some reason my post never went through.

For a model that has all the indications that it is intended to apply only to humans or organisms similar enough, it seems to me that the person who wants to say that the model has broader applications than its intended scope needs to actually argue for that claim. *Show* that the model can be applied to a broader context (i.e., God).

But one reason to think it cannot is because it is externalist—whether or not some organism has warrant depends on its being in an appropriate cognitive environment—i.e., conditions external to the organism are suitable for proper function. But God was and can exist without anything external to him.

Further, applying the concept of proper function to God would require all sorts of tweaks on the concept of God that Plantinga is working with. For example, it would require denying God’s aseity (if he must always be in some appropriate cognitive environment that entails externalist conditions, he cannot exist a se), it might require denying the traditional view that God does not know things mediately, or may even deny the traditional formulation of omniscience. Plantinga’s model is shot through with contingencies after contingencies. Would it even make sense to map such a model onto a necessary being, or a being that is necessarily omniscient (there, too, goes Plantinga’s reliabiliist condition, which is cashed out in probabilistic terms).

So you’d have to show how all of this works without tweaking the model or Plantinga’s conception of God. Otherwise, the claim that it applies with equal force to God is, well, just a claim.

Like I said, I think this would be a very interesting argument. So why not argue it?

exapologist said...

Hi Chad,

Plantinga's externalism encompasses the thesis that warrant and knowledge requires reliable cognitive faculties, and he concedes that even God himself can't justify the reliability of his cognitive faculties without falling into Alstonian epistemic circularity: ". . .this situation is a necessary feature of any doxastic condition. Not even God himself, necessarily omniscient as he is, can give a noncircular argument for the reliability of his ways of forming beliefs. God himself is trapped inside the circle of his own ideas." (Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, p. 109 of my Kindle version).

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