Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A short version of Plantinga's EAAN

From his new book, Where the Conflict Really Lies.


First, the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable, given naturalism and evolution, is low.  (To put it a bit inaccurately but suggestively, if naturalism and evolution were both true, our cognitive faculties would very likely not be reliable.)  But then according to the second premise of my argument, if I believe both naturalism and evolution, I have a defeater for my intuitive assumption that my cognitive faculties are reliable.  If I have a defeater for that belief, however, then I have a defeater for any belief I take to be produced by my cognitive faculties.  That means that I have a defeater for my belief that naturalism and evolution are true.  So my belief that naturalism and evolution are true gives me a defeater for that very belief; that belief shoots itself in the foot and is self-referentially incoherent; therefore I cannot rationally accept it.
p. 314.

68 comments:

BeingItself said...

"First, the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable, given naturalism and evolution, is low."

That premise has always seemed to me obviously false.

BenYachov said...

>"First, the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable, given naturalism and evolution, is low."

Ironically BI is correct for once. "Reliable" has to be defined. We need to make a distinction between functional vs true.

If my cognitive faculties tell me petting tigers is a good thing and the best way to do that is too run away from them then functionally they are "reliable" since they will reliably cause me to survive.

OTOH running away from a tiger is not the best way to pet them & petting them is not a good thing.

Neither is in fact true.

Crude said...

Ben,

If my cognitive faculties tell me petting tigers is a good thing and the best way to do that is too run away from them then functionally they are "reliable" since they will reliably cause me to survive.

Plantinga defines what he means by reliable - I suspect you know this, though, since the example you're using is ridiculously close to Plantinga's own examples, where he tries to show how truth can be/is irrelevant to evolution as conceived by the naturalist.

I prefer Victor's and Ed's formulations of this kind of argument, which doesn't really concern itself with evolution. But I think Plantinga's version is golden in one respect that it doesn't get enough credit for - it throws most naturalists into the trap of imparting ridiculous amounts of teleology to nature generally, and evolution particularly.

Matt DeStefano said...

If I have a defeater for that belief, however, then I have a defeater for any belief I take to be produced by my cognitive faculties.

Churchland's response is my favorite response to this. I've written a detailed paper on it here, but I can flesh out what I take to be the key points.

Many beliefs, including evolution, aren't derived from our cognitive faculties alone. They are derived from science, which improves upon our native cognitive faculties in two different manners (1) it improves our senses by virtue of things like the microscope, telescope, testing the chemical composition of organic compounds, etc. and (2) it improves the theoretical underpinning of our native cognitive faculties by the rich backdrop of previous scientific theories, mathematics, and the structure that governs experimental procedures and guidelines. This is why we can so richly research how and why our native cognitive faculties so often fail.

Another difficulty of Plantinga's view is his presupposition that cognitive faculties are primarily producers of propositional beliefs that can either be true or false. However, we know that prelingaformal representations of external environments exist in organisms, and it doesn't make sense to see evolution as targeting "truth" or "true beliefs". As I write in the paper: Churchland’s article concludes with an alternative explanation of cognitive representation of external reality that casts light on how pre-linguaformal schemes of representation might differ from the conventional view that Plantinga assumes in his binary evaluation of belief contents. Churchland envisions these pre-linguaformal schemes of representations as “maps” rather than a system that generates propositional beliefs. Our representations are “roughly accurate partial portrayals of the practical environment in which the creature must make its way".

Crude said...

Many beliefs, including evolution, aren't derived from our cognitive faculties alone. They are derived from science, which improves upon our native cognitive faculties in two different manners

How are you going to establish this? More to the point, how are you going to establish this without presupposing the reliability of our cognitive faculties or of science, both of which are under question?

Our representations are “roughly accurate partial portrayals of the practical environment in which the creature must make its way".

Plantinga allows for this kind of accuracy with his tiger examples.

As an aside, if someone tries to make the reply that Plantinga's argument fails because there's no such thing as beliefs to begin with, such as going the Alex Rosenberg route, I see an obvious reply from Plantinga. "If you want to walk that route, you're more than welcome."

Matt DeStefano said...

How are you going to establish this? More to the point, how are you going to establish this without presupposing the reliability of our cognitive faculties or of science, both of which are under question?

Science isn't under question in Plantinga's EAAN. Plantinga is questioning the veracity of propositional beliefs like "Natural selection explains the vast variety of life on Earth" and "Naturalism is true" under the assumption that naturalism and evolution are true.

Plantinga allows for this kind of accuracy with his tiger examples.

No, because for Plantinga propositions are either "true" or "false", but Churchland is making the point that the currency of evolution isn't propositional beliefs, but representational maps.

Plantinga's discussion of the tigers is meant to convey that while evolution might select for behavior, we have no way of insuring that propositional attitudes (or 'the content') will be true.

As an aside, if someone tries to make the reply that Plantinga's argument fails because there's no such thing as beliefs to begin with, such as going the Alex Rosenberg route, I see an obvious reply from Plantinga. "If you want to walk that route, you're more than welcome."

You need not reject folk psychology in order to adopt this argument, although Churchland is obviously an eliminative materialist of sorts.

BeingItself said...

Crude,

"how are you going to establish this without presupposing the reliability of our cognitive faculties or of science, both of which are under question?"

Stephen Law calls this type of move "going nuclear". Well done!

Crude said...

Stephen Law calls this type of move "going nuclear". Well done!

Oh gosh Stephen Law? THE Stephen Law? Hold up, I better...

Wait, no one cares what Stephen Law says. ;) Call me when you get an argument. Or hell, when you can understand one.

Crude said...

Matt,

Science isn't under question in Plantinga's EAAN. Plantinga is questioning the veracity of propositional beliefs like "Natural selection explains the vast variety of life on Earth" and "Naturalism is true" under the assumption that naturalism and evolution are true.

Insofar as Plantinga is questioning the reliability of our reasoning, and science is a product of our reasoning, yes - he's questioning science. He's arguing that our reasoning becomes suspect when both naturalism and evolution are joined - that's going to bleed into science right away.

For the same reason you couldn't reply to Plantinga, "We can tell that our beliefs are true, because we programmed this computer to check beliefs for truth/falsity."

No, because for Plantinga propositions are either "true" or "false", but Churchland is making the point that the currency of evolution isn't propositional beliefs, but representational maps.


Eventually you're going to have to either deny the existence of beliefs, or translate the maps into subjective terms, to use this strategy against Plantinga. Saying "well, it's not a question of true/false, it's a question of maps" - but if the maps are akin to the sort Ben mentioned (The map is 'accurate' in that it keeps you away from tigers, and that's all we're concerned with), you're just delaying engaging the question.

You need not reject folk psychology in order to adopt this argument, although Churchland is obviously an eliminative materialist of sorts.

I don't think that's clear.

Matt DeStefano said...

Insofar as Plantinga is questioning the reliability of our reasoning, and science is a product of our reasoning, yes - he's questioning science. He's arguing that our reasoning becomes suspect when both naturalism and evolution are joined - that's going to bleed into science right away.

According to Plantinga our reasoning is a product of our cognitive faculties. Our cognitive faculties produce propositions, which Plantinga regards as unreliable because they are produced by our native cognitive faculties (which under evolution are understandably unreliable).

However, as Churchland points out, Plantinga "innocently assumes the ‘truth-tracking character’ of our native cognitive mechanisms is the only possible or available source of rational warrant or justification for evolutionary theory”. It isn't, we have the extra-sensory modalities and theoretical examinations of science.

So, unless Plantinga wants to argue that science is simply the sum of our cognitive faculties (which is obviously wrong, just think of what we can see with a telescope), his argument rests upon an untenable assumption.

Eventually you're going to have to either deny the existence of beliefs, or translate the maps into subjective terms, to use this strategy against Plantinga. Saying "well, it's not a question of true/false, it's a question of maps" - but if the maps are akin to the sort Ben mentioned (The map is 'accurate' in that it keeps you away from tigers, and that's all we're concerned with), you're just delaying engaging the question.

Ben wasn't talking about "maps", he was talking about evolution selecting for adaptations in behavior (as he put, "functionally reliable") rather than dealing in terms of true or false propositions. This is a step-up, but it doesn't do justice to the amount of reliability we have as human beings as Plantinga points out.

Maps (or practical similarity and difference representations of our environment) do a better job at explaining this reliability, as things that lie outside of our jurisdiction (the size of an atom, or how far away the Sun is) are better understood by the provisions of science than our cognitive faculties alone. However, within these maps, judgments such as the color of berries or the trajectory of a football are perfectly within our competency.

We need not explain away beliefs because we can understand that propositions are mere approximations of prelinguaformal representations. For example, if I hear and see a rustle in the bushes, I might perceive it as some sort of danger. I could express this propositionally as "There's something in the bushes!"

However, it turns out to be just the wind. The proposition of "There is something in the bushes" was false, but our prelingaformal representation (consisting of the sound of wind rushing through the bushes as well as the movement of the leaves, etc.) wasn't "false" or "unreliable". It was just a partial and practical representation of our environment that contributed to our evolutionary fitness but wasn't interested in "truth-tracking" per se.

Crude said...

Matt,

Emphasis added.

However, as Churchland points out, Plantinga "innocently assumes the ‘truth-tracking character’ of our native cognitive mechanisms is the only possible or available source of rational warrant or justification for evolutionary theory”. It isn't, we have the extra-sensory modalities and theoretical examinations of science.

So, unless Plantinga wants to argue that science is simply the sum of our cognitive faculties (which is obviously wrong, just think of what we can see with a telescope), his argument rests upon an untenable assumption.


I really hope that there's either a typo there, or something is left out. If Churchland is treating Plantinga's argument as an argument against evolutionary theory, then they've already bungled the reply to Plantinga by misunderstanding his goal. His target isn't evolutionary theory.

Plantinga doesn't need to argue that science is "the sum of our cognitive faculties" - he just needs the accuracy (again, in the relevant sense) of our cognitive faculties to be essential with regards to holding true beliefs.

Maps (or practical similarity and difference representations of our environment) do a better job at explaining this reliability, as things that lie outside of our jurisdiction (the size of an atom, or how far away the Sun is) are better understood by the provisions of science than our cognitive faculties alone. However, within these maps, judgments such as the color of berries or the trajectory of a football are perfectly within our competency.

Again, this is just dancing around the perimeter of the question rather than engaging it. First, you say "better understood by the provisions of science rather than our cognitive faculties alone". But once again, our cognitive faculties are essential to science - call that into question and science falls with it. Second, even if you talk in terms of maps, you're eventually either going to have to start painting the picture of how these maps eventually cash out to belief/subjective awareness and investment ('This map is 80% accurate' - alright, and this is justified how?), or go whole hog and say the question never gets off the ground because there are no beliefs or subjective investments of that kind (in which case, go for it. Plantinga and company will settle for that move.)

rank sophist said...

I find the argument from reason infinitely more compelling than Platinga's probability calculations. However, I'm going to have to agree with Crude, here.

Churchland's critique is only remotely strong if we adopt an eliminative materialist position, in which such things as meaning, intention, belief, feeling, consciousness and truth are illusions. Science is based on some other kind of faculty. (This is, of course, false; but let's grant him this point.) Yet, if we deny the existence of those things, then it seems impossible to say that Churchland's critique is actually about anything, or that it means anything at all. Even if science is exempt from the destructive power of eliminative materialism (it isn't), it becomes impossible to make an argument (as these require "truth", "belief" and "intention") to defend that claim. It is also impossible to explain why we should believe in scientific findings, since we have no beliefs. Basically, Churchland is insane.

If we reject Churchland's eliminative materialism, then Platinga's attack becomes far more damaging. Even if science is based on something aside from our beliefs, we must believe or disbelieve in science itself. Yet, as Platinga says, the likelihood that our beliefs are true is stunningly low. So why do we trust science? It certainly can't be a pre-programmed belief, because many don't believe in it. Or is everyone deterministically pre-programmed to believe what they believe? In that case, then how can we say that a belief in science is better than a lack of belief in science?

rank sophist said...

I should add that the claim "we should believe in science because it more accurately represents reality" is question-begging. It is itself a belief about a proposition that can either be true or false.

Matt DeStefano said...

Crude,

I really hope that there's either a typo there, or something is left out. If Churchland is treating Plantinga's argument as an argument against evolutionary theory, then they've already bungled the reply to Plantinga by misunderstanding his goal. His target isn't evolutionary theory.


I don't think that you understand Plantinga's argument, or Churchland's response. Churchland isn't advocating that evolution is Plantinga's target, nor does that quote suggest that it is. I'll summarize again, although it might be good to read the relevant philosophical literature here to develop a fuller understanding.

Plantinga's argument goes like this - give naturalism and evolution, we have little reason to suspect that our native cognitive faculties are reliable. Therefore, the beliefs that we generate from our native cognitive faculties (evolution and naturalism) now have a defeater. Of course, we generally think human beings are reliable about many things, his quip is something like "You would be put in an asylum for believing you are Napoleon, but not for believing that your beliefs are reliable." So, what's a person to do given this defeater?

Churchland's responding by pointing out that our native cognitive faculties are not the only source of warrant or justification for our beliefs. This assumption undermines the entire argument surrounding the defeater. Many (if not most) of our beliefs about the world aren't generated from our native cognitive faculties alone, but the artificial sensory modalities and advanced theoretical rationality of science. The defeater that Plantinga is supposing doesn't apply to these beliefs.

Crude said...

Matt,

I don't think that you understand Plantinga's argument, or Churchland's response. Churchland isn't advocating that evolution is Plantinga's target, nor does that quote suggest that it is. I'll summarize again, although it might be good to read the relevant philosophical literature here to develop a fuller understanding.

I've read through Plantinga's argument numerous times - one of the most common mistakes people make is to assume that Plantinga's argument is an attack on evolutionary theory. It's not. The portion you quoted from Churchland made it sound as if that was Plantinga's goal - that's why I asked for clarification.

Churchland's responding by pointing out that our native cognitive faculties are not the only source of warrant or justification for our beliefs. This assumption undermines the entire argument surrounding the defeater.

Again, it does no such thing. Churchland would have to be arguing something along these lines for that to work: "The reliability of our cognitive faculties is irrelevant when it comes to granting warrant/justification to our beliefs." You can argue that things in addition to our strictly immediately available cognitive facilities can provide some warrant for our beliefs, but you're going to have to do some incredibly fancy footwork to argue that the reliability of our cognitive facilities is irrelevant, or even largely irrelevant, to the question. Fancier footwork still to argue that you can subtract cognitive faculties from the equation and still have this thing called "science" to refer to.

Really, you just have to look at your own examples: telescopes do not "generate beliefs" on their own. Agents using telescopes (and using their cognitive faculties), do. "Science" is not some literal thing out there, informing humans what they should and shouldn't believe - it's a discipline/field that you get when you start applying cognitive faculties in certain ways.

Now, you can sidestep what I just said by turning around and saying "Well, I'm an eliminativist about such things. No one really has beliefs about things, or even ideas about things." Now, that's one way to short-circuit Plantinga's argument. But as I've said, if you walk that route, Plantinga won't care.

Bilbo said...

Hi Matt,

I wonder if you read Plantinga's response to Churchland in Philo?

BenYachov said...

Surreal, I actually find myself agreeing with BI yet again!


However with this Caveat, it seems to be a Nuclear Argument except Plantinga has the odd distinction of doing something not believed to be possible in Nuclear war. He seems to have won.

BenYachov said...

I sometimes wonder if critics of the EAAN make the mistake of treating it as if it where questioning wither or not it is possible for reliable cognitive faculties to be produced by evolution?

Obviously they can be but that is not the issue. The issue is given naturalism is the probability of it low?

unkleE said...

Perhaps we can pose a slightly different dilemma.

Perhaps our cognitive faculties are indeed reliable at discovering truth (and not just keeping us safe). That means, by definition, that they are mostly able to produce true results.

But it is a statistical fact that most people (about 80%) believe in God. Their belief in God is part of their cognitive faculties, which we have assumed are reliable. Therefore the conclusion that God exists is a reliable conclusion.

It seems to me that to deny this conclusion, we have to say that the believers are delusional, or illogical, i.e. that their cognitive faculties are unreliable, which means we are back at the dilemma we started with.

This leaves the naturalist with the option of selective reliability, which doesn't sound too strong a proposition to me.

cl said...

Matt,

"Churchland's responding by pointing out that our native cognitive faculties are not the only source of warrant or justification for our beliefs."

...and you seem to be wholly missing Crude's point (or at least the point I think Crude alludes to), which is that any "warrant" or "justification" is inextricably intertwined with our cognitive faculties. Sure, we've got telescopes and neat little tools and past theories and all that... but the conclusions drawn from these things all depend on our cognitive faculties.

You could attempt to formulate a worthwhile objection by demonstrating instances of "warrant" or "justification" that do not depend on our cognitive faculties, but just saying Crude "doesn't understand" doesn't cut the mustard. It actually seems like you don't understand Crude's criticism, but time will tell.

Matt DeStefano said...

I wonder if you read Plantinga's response to Churchland in Philo?

I did when I was researching the paper, but I lost my subscription to online databases when I graduated. Any chance you have the PDF handy? :)

Matt DeStefano said...

Really, you just have to look at your own examples: telescopes do not "generate beliefs" on their own. Agents using telescopes (and using their cognitive faculties), do. "Science" is not some literal thing out there, informing humans what they should and shouldn't believe - it's a discipline/field that you get when you start applying cognitive faculties in certain ways.

The fact that you paraphrase Churchland as arguing that telescopes "generate beliefs" is demonstrative that you don't understand what his criticism is. He's not arguing that science is a "literal thing out there informing humans what they should and shouldn't believe" (whatever that means), but that the improved faculties that science has given us (telescopes, microscopes, statistics, Bayesian analysis, etc.) can produce reliable warrant for our propositional attitudes.

You could say that science is just an extension of our native cognitive faculties, but unless you can mount a good argument that there's not a decisive difference between me looking at a bacteria culture in a petri dish and a looking through a microscope at the same bacteria culture, I haven't got much hope for that line of argument.

Matt DeStefano said...

This leaves the naturalist with the option of selective reliability, which doesn't sound too strong a proposition to me.

Do you think human beings are as reliable at predicting the odds of winning the lottery as they are at guessing where a football will land after a friend has thrown it?

Crude said...

Matt,

The fact that you paraphrase Churchland as arguing that telescopes "generate beliefs" is demonstrative that you don't understand what his criticism is.

I'm relying on you to explain your objection here. When you tell me that Plantinga's EAAN fails because it doesn't take into account telescopes and scientific theories, which you claim are not part of our cognitive faculties and are therefore immune to his argument, I'm going to point out the obvious flaws.

Really, if you're not prepared to adequately explain and defend Churchland's argument, say so. But please don't tell me "No, no, no, you get Churchland wrong" when what I'm doing is replying to your own statements and summaries here. So far, I've been responding fairly and directly to your claims.

Emphasis added below.

He's not arguing that science is a "literal thing out there informing humans what they should and shouldn't believe" (whatever that means), but that the improved faculties that science has given us (telescopes, microscopes, statistics, Bayesian analysis, etc.) can produce reliable warrant for our propositional attitudes.

First, "science" has played a role in some technological innovation, but it's not correct to simply say "science" has given us all these things. The abacus showed up well before science could reasonably take credit for it.

Second, your summary here implicitly relies on our cognitive faculties being reliant enough to create accurate tools and methods that can, in turn, "improve" our faculties. And how do we know they've improved our faculties in any event? By relying on those same faculties.

You could say that science is just an extension of our native cognitive faculties, but unless you can mount a good argument that there's not a decisive difference between me looking at a bacteria culture in a petri dish and a looking through a microscope at the same bacteria culture, I haven't got much hope for that line of argument.

Like I've been saying, all of this feeds back into the very things - the reliability of our minds and beliefs - that Plantinga's argument is calling into question. This is like being accused of having experienced a hallucination, and replying "Not likely. I went to the eye doctor, I have perfect 20/20 vision, so I know what I saw." It misses the mark.

You can reply, "Well, there's a big difference between 20/20 vision and blurry, terrible vision!" Yeah, there is - given certain assumptions. Can you see why this wouldn't be a good reply when discussing a hallucination?

cl said...

Crude,

I hate to say this, but it might be hopeless. Matt pulled this same schtick over at my place a few weeks ago: "No cl, you *CLEARLY* don't understand what 'logically possible' means..." Total bore.

I've sat here and watched you guys go 4-5 rounds, and he still hasn't managed to formulate an adequate response to what you're saying. His inability to grok your point stands out like a shining star in his remarks about telescopes and microscopes. Matt doesn't seem to understand that none of those things are improved cognitive faculties. Telescopes and microscopes are sensory extensions of our eyes. Our cognitive faculties don't change a lick because we can suddenly see farther or nearer.

Of course, as Unkle E astutely pointed out, even if Matt could win this battle, he loses the war. If our faculties are unreliable we have a defeater for naturalism. If they are reliable we have reason to trust the overwhelming majority of people whose senses lead them to conclude God exists.

cl said...

Another thought, again presuming we grant that "improved cognitive faculties" nullify Plantinga's EAAN: proffered improvements concede that the unreliability in question was real. Our faculties would have still been unreliable for the (minimum) 100,000 years it took modern Homo sapiens to develop science. Any current benefits, no matter how real, come with a very large expense. Is it realistic to expect a few centuries of science to correct 100,000 years of unreliability?

Moreover, even if we grant that our senses are reliable, this ironically forces Matt to concede that Plantinga is largely correct. To some degree, Matt must accept that science has confirmed the unreliability of our senses. Geocentrism? False. Flat earth? False. Quantum mechanics? True. Cathode rays? False. Etc. We could extend these confirmations of sensory unreliability on and on.

Lastly, is this not the stock atheist response to miracles, the paranormal, the spiritual or anything else but their own beloved mythology of naturalism? That we can't rely on people who say they've witnessed miracles, ghosts, angels and aliens precisely because their senses are unreliable? What of the claim in legal circles that eyewitness testimony can be notoriously unreliable?

This is much more complex than "Churchland's right."

Crude said...

cl,

I've sat here and watched you guys go 4-5 rounds, and he still hasn't managed to formulate an adequate response to what you're saying. His inability to grok your point stands out like a shining star in his remarks about telescopes and microscopes. Matt doesn't seem to understand that none of those things are improved cognitive faculties. Telescopes and microscopes are sensory extensions of our eyes. Our cognitive faculties don't change a lick because we can suddenly see farther or nearer.

I think you can say "those things have improved our cognitive abilities", but only by assuming things that Plantinga is calling into question with his argument to begin with. Ben brought up a good point when he mentioned that the challenge for the naturalist isn't to conceive of some hypothetical, possible way our beliefs or belief-forming mechanisms could be reliable / largely track to truth - Plantinga isn't arguing that having a true belief, or even largely true beliefs, isn't possible on E&N. He's arguing what we should expect - probabilities. My understanding of the argument is that Plantinga believes this has to be sorted out before we start talking about science, etc, because if our cognitive faculties are low or inscrutable given E&N, justifying the assumptions we'd need to start talking about science becomes a lot more difficult for the naturalist evolutionist.

Moreover, even if we grant that our senses are reliable, this ironically forces Matt to concede that Plantinga is largely correct. To some degree, Matt must accept that science has confirmed the unreliability of our senses. Geocentrism? False. Flat earth? False. Quantum mechanics? True. Cathode rays? False. Etc. We could extend these confirmations of sensory unreliability on and on.

I think it gets even worse for the Churchlands specifically, since an eliminative materialist is committed to humanity being utterly wrong about quite an assortment of things that many people would think it's impossible or extremely difficult for us to be wrong about. (Do you have beliefs? Surprise, you actually don't. Did you exist 10 years ago? Rosenberg would apparently say no.)

For me, what's really interesting are naturalist responses that try to answer Plantinga by saying that, given E&N, the probability of us having reliable truth-tracking mental faculties is high. In my view, asserting that yields a ferociously teleological conception of evolution, and is going to sit poorly with naturalism. Theism will come out better.

Either way, I agree that the Churchland response - at least as Matt is presenting it - is a pretty poor response to Plantinga.

Crude said...

By the way, Plantinga had this Churchland quote from one of his papers:

Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four
F's: feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principle chore of nervous systems is
to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. . . . .
Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style
of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism's way of life and
enhances the organism's chances of survival
[Churchland's emphasis]. Truth, whatever
that is, definitely takes the hindmost.


Another relevant quote from Plantinga, this time with my emphasis:

Now for the argument that it is irrational to believe N&E: P(R/N&E) is either low or inscrutable; in either case (if you accept N&E) you have a defeater for R, and therefore for any other belief B you might hold; but B might be N&E itself; so one who accepts N&E has a defeater for N&E, a reason to doubt or be agnostic with respect to it. If he has no independent evidence, N&E is self-defeating and hence irrational. Could he get a defeater for this dereater - a defeater-defeater? Maybe by doing some science, by, e.g., determining by scientific means that his faculties really are reliable?

But of course that would presuppose that his faculties are reliable.
Thomas Reid (Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man):
If a man's honesty were called into question, it would be ridiculous to refer to the man's own word, whether he be honest or not. The same absurdity there is in attempting to prove, by any kind of reasoning, probable or demonstrative, that our reason is not fallacious, since the very point in question is, whether reasoning may be trusted.(276)

Is there any sensible way at all in which he can argue for R? Any argument he might produce will have premises; and these premises, he claims, give him good reason to believe R. But of course he has the very same defeater for each of those premises that he has for R so this defeater can't be defeated.


I bring this up just to show the direction Plantinga is going with this.

(BTW, pardon any typos in the above. PDF doesn't like copy-paste at times.)

Steve Lovell said...

I realise it misrepresents both sides somewhat, but the discussion reads quite like a discussion of whether a stupid man with a telescope is still a stupid man.

If that were the question, the answer would, I assume, be rather obvious.

Matt DeStefano said...

I'm relying on you to explain your objection here. When you tell me that Plantinga's EAAN fails because it doesn't take into account telescopes and scientific theories, which you claim are not part of our cognitive faculties and are therefore immune to his argument, I'm going to point out the obvious flaws.

It fails because it assumes that our native cognitive faculties are the only warrant or justification for our beliefs. They are not.


Second, your summary here implicitly relies on our cognitive faculties being reliant enough to create accurate tools and methods that can, in turn, "improve" our faculties. And how do we know they've improved our faculties in any event? By relying on those same faculties.

This is what is called "going nuclear". Are you denying that microscopes and telescopes improve upon our native cognitive faculties because we have to use our eyes to see through the lens?

BenYachov said...

@Matt

This discussion will not end well for you Matt.

You are dodging Crude's point.

>This is what is called "going nuclear". Are you denying that microscopes and telescopes improve upon our native cognitive faculties because we have to use our eyes to see through the lens?

As I recall Stephen Law used that phrase(i.e. Nuclear etc) to refer to persons who called the reliability of logic and reason to solve problems into question.

After all if logic and reason aren't reliable then any logical or reasoned argument calling them into question by definition can't be reliable.

But here we are not questioning logic and reason nor the use of our or your cognitive faculties to reason out a conclusion.

We are trying to figure out how given both Evolution and Naturalism the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable is Low or not.

Karl Grant said...

Matt,

This is what is called "going nuclear". Are you denying that microscopes and telescopes improve upon our native cognitive faculties because we have to use our eyes to see through the lens?

Yeah, pretty much is what we are saying. For example, take a look at this picture. Now you could be viewing that flag through some of the most high-tech, highest quality optical enhancement around and see red, white and blue. But Joe, who is totally color-blind, is only going to see shades of gray no matter how good the telescope/microscope. Everything we see, hear, experience is filtered through our native cognitive faculties. Microscopes, telescopes, binoculars, etc... are pure window dressing and do not change the basic equation one damn bit.

Crude said...

Matt,

It fails because it assumes that our native cognitive faculties are the only warrant or justification for our beliefs. They are not.

And I keep saying, no, it does not assume this. Add on to our native cognitive faculties if you like, but said cognitive faculties are still essential - there is no replacement for them such that they're irrelevant. Again, this is like countering a hallucination claim by referring to one's 20/20 vision.

This is what is called "going nuclear". Are you denying that microscopes and telescopes improve upon our native cognitive faculties because we have to use our eyes to see through the lens?

Look, at this point cl's claim is starting to ring true. Plantinga's argument - and I just quoted a nice relevant portion of it - has to do with the probability of our minds being reliable given the conjunction of evolution and naturalism. He even stated why saying "well I'll go do some science and see if my faculties are reliable" isn't a reply to his question.

Concluding that (given E&N) one's cognitive faculties are either low or inscrutable isn't some crazy desperate move in the context of the EAAN. It's actually what Plantinga is arguing.

Ben's actually giving a good summary here. If your reply is going to be "well the prospect of my mental faculties being unreliable was called going nuclear by someone so I refuse to consider it or any argument that suggests I should conclude that based on my beliefs", okay, you're welcome to it. But at that point you're not arguing against the EAAN. You're just sidestepping it altogether.

Martin said...

I don't understand this whole "going nuclear" thing of Stephen Law's.

It seems to me that it's just an example of attaching a bad-sounding label to something so that it can be dismissed without argument.

BeingItself said...

Anyone who brings up skeptical worries such as "how can you rely on your senses since you must first just assume they function properly" or "how can you rely on your reasoning ability since you first must presuppose your reasoning ability" is going nuclear.

They are destroying the possibility for anyone to make any kind of argument. Mutually assured destruction.

Philosophy 101 usually covers this sort of silliness by talking about brains in vats or The Matrix. Most people grow out of these worries.

But not the likes of Crude. Early on in this discussion he criticized Matt for "presupposing the reliability of our cognitive faculties".

That is textbook going nuclear, and it's just idiotic.

rank sophist said...

Something important to keep in mind is that Churchland considers us to be "meat machines". If that's the case, then something like a telescope would, indeed, improve our faculties. Think of it like upgrading a robot. "Truth" and "propositions" never come into it--seeing as they don't exist for Churchland. On this view, science would be a non-conscious "mapping system" that helped us process reality. In this way, Churchland could be said to escape the EAAN.

However, this is an all-or-nothing situation. Either you deny consciousness, intention, truth and meaning, or you get screwed by the EAAN. Matt doesn't want to follow Churchland all the way to his padded cell, and so his argument is blatantly fallacious. Of course the telescope isn't going to augment a real human being unless that human being has trustworthy cognition. If we can believe or disbelieve in something, then it follows that we'll have to process any scientific results through a belief/disbelief "filter". Churchland, as an eliminativist, doesn't have this problem. (But, as I mentioned before, he also can't seem to explain why his argument for this conclusion contains any logic, truth or meaning.)

rank sophist said...

BI,

You apparently missed the part where we denied the truth of naturalism.

Matt DeStefano said...

(But, as I mentioned before, he also can't seem to explain why his argument for this conclusion contains any logic, truth or meaning.)

I suppose I should say something to this before some person is fooled into thinking this is a legitimate criticism of Churchland's position.

For those who haven't taken a philosophy of mind course or haven't read an introductory textbook this may seem like a salient objection. Of course, it's about as naive as objecting "You can't believe that you have no beliefs. That's incoherent!" From the SEP:

"Eliminativists often respond to this objection by first noting that the bare thesis that there are no beliefs is not itself contradictory or conceptually incoherent. So properly understood, the complaint is not that eliminative materialism (qua-proposition) is self-refuting. Rather, it is that the eliminativist herself is doing something that disconfirms her own thesis. In the above example, the disconfirming act is the making of an assertion, as it is alleged by the critic that we must believe anything we assert with public language. However, this last claim is precisely the sort of folk-psychological assumption that the eliminative materialist is suggesting we should abandon. According to eliminative materialism, all of the various capacities that we now explain by appealing to beliefs do not actually involve beliefs at all. So the eliminativist will hold that the self-refutation critics beg the question against eliminative materialism. To run this sort of objection, the critic endorses some principle about the necessity of beliefs which itself presupposes that eliminative materialism must be false (P. S. Churchland, 1986; Cling, 1989; Devitt, 1990; Ramsey, 1991)."

William said...

"
It fails because it assumes that our native cognitive faculties are the only warrant or justification for our beliefs. They are not.
"

First of all, Matt has a point. Second, it does not apply to the belief being questioned, which is metaphysical naturalism.

If the belief was "The moon is more than a 10 miles from the surface of the earth" we can use math to calculate its orbit. We can use a rocket sent toward the moon to show that going 10 miles up does not reach it. In that case, the rocket extends our visual impressions. Technology is a second justifier for our beliefs.

But, with a metaphysical position like metaphysical (not methodological) naturalism, there is no such extension possible.

Matt DeStefano said...

Look, at this point cl's claim is starting to ring true. Plantinga's argument - and I just quoted a nice relevant portion of it - has to do with the probability of our minds being reliable given the conjunction of evolution and naturalism. He even stated why saying "well I'll go do some science and see if my faculties are reliable" isn't a reply to his question.

The fact that you believe the bolded part is representative of Churchland's position is precisely the problem. Churchland isn't arguing that science proves our faculties are reliable, he's arguing that science gives us faculties above and beyond our native ones that allow us to have reliable beliefs that aren't dependent upon our native cognitive faculties which are riddled with problems which call into question our reliability.

Yeah, pretty much is what we are saying. For example, take a look at this picture. Now you could be viewing that flag through some of the most high-tech, highest quality optical enhancement around and see red, white and blue. But Joe, who is totally color-blind, is only going to see shades of gray no matter how good the telescope/microscope. Everything we see, hear, experience is filtered through our native cognitive faculties. Microscopes, telescopes, binoculars, etc... are pure window dressing and do not change the basic equation one damn bit.

This is absolutely absurd. Why do we require some people to drive only if they have eye-glasses (or contacts) on? After all, at the bottom of it all, it's just their eyes that are seeing!

Papalinton said...

The EEAN was summarily dealt with by Dennet in a little book published by Oxford University Press on a debate between Plantinga and Dennett titled, "Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?"

Victor, have you read this book? Plantinga's EEAN is fully infused with the 'gogdidit' maneuver.

"According to Plantinga's argument [EEAN] an Intelligent Designer has had a hand, [well, not really a hand, but a divine nudge of some kind] in our evolution, since such competence as we exhibit could not otherwise come to exist. This is apparently his attempt to shore up Michael Behe's forlorn argument from irreducible complexity with his own version, replacing bacterial flagellum with human cognitive competence."

Palninga's argument is not much of an argument really, just another appeal through scientifically-uninformed philosophy to supernatural superstition. Plantinga's EEAN is best described as an Argument from Personal incredulity.

Apparently he has since revised this argument following the debate. It has been variously described as the REEAN, though Plantinga denies that. Here is an interesting take on the revised version:

http://specterofreason.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/more-on-plantingas-revised-eaan.html

Matt DeStefano said...

Second, it does not apply to the belief being questioned, which is metaphysical naturalism.

This is a fantastic point, and a major hole in Churchland's argument. His argument applies to evolution (and many of our other beliefs), but not that of metaphysical naturalism. He doesn't address this, and in my paper I adopted an argument that might fill in this hole nicely.

One of those arguments would be Barbara Forrest's argument from methodological naturalism to metaphysical (or philosophical) naturalism. (http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/barbara_forrest/naturalism.html)

Papalinton said...

It's very simple really.

Naturalism is not a presupposition as is religious belief. Naturalism is a result of doing science. And doing science is the best explanatory tool we have at the moment that puts us on the 'truth-seeking' path, and extends our innate capacity beyond the intuitive reliance on our native cognitive talents. As Dennett correctly goes on:

"The passage from intelligent hominid to language-using Homo sapiens to scientist is one that we are only beginning to uncover, so we cannot yet prove that there no miracles along the way, but the burden of proof lies on the other side. Let Plantinga, like Behe, try to show us the irreducible complexity in our minds that could not possibly have evolved (by genetic and cultural evolution). He will find, as Behe has, that his inability to imagine how this is possible is not the same as a proof that it is impossible." [From "Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?" p.75]

Martin said...

Papalinton,

You said that Dennet took care of the EAAN, but I'm not seeing any substance to the paragraph you quoted. Where exactly did he refute the argument?

rank sophist said...

Matt,

I never presented the facile "they believe that there are no beliefs" objection. I'm familiar with their attacks against that argument. Rather, I was merely pointing out that eliminativism denies intentionality and meaning, which in turn tells us that Churchland's logical deductions have no more meaning than "6U#FG6tBKO*?~". Churchland would likely agree, but he would then inform us that "meaning" is folk psychology. How would he cash out his argument's "meaning", then? As with all eliminativists, he would here be reduced to handwaving.

Papalinton said...

Martin
"You said that Dennet took care of the EAAN, but I'm not seeing any substance to the paragraph you quoted. Where exactly did he refute the argument?"

You are right. The paragraph I quoted doesn't provide the refutation. I implied it in the totality of the debate in the book. The quote I chose is simply an encapsulation of the tenor of Plantinga's perspective. The booklet is just 70 pages. Pick it up. It's a good read.

Crude said...

Matt,

The fact that you believe the bolded part is representative of Churchland's position is precisely the problem. Churchland isn't arguing that science proves our faculties are reliable, he's arguing that science gives us faculties above and beyond our native ones that allow us to have reliable beliefs that aren't dependent upon our native cognitive faculties which are riddled with problems which call into question our reliability.

First, "above and beyond our native ones". Alright - if this means "more reliable" or "largely reliable", then here comes the obvious followup question: How does Churchland know this? The answer had better not be "because the instruments we made or the scientific processes we adhere to show this", because then the same question gets asked about THOSE instruments and processes. The answer had also better not be "because we can tell without using those", because now we're directly back to asking how we can trust our cognitive faculties to make this decision.

Second, "science" is intimately attached to our native faculties - science *requires* those native faculties. When someone does science, he does not stop using his native faculties and instead use something completely different. The very fact that it's rightly called an extension, not a replacement, helps show the problem.

Here's a great way to illustrate whether or not you get at least some of what Plantinga is driving at with his argument: consider intelligent beings on another planet, even another universe. They are the product of evolution in a naturalistic universe.

What is the probability of their cognitive faculties being reliable with regards to truth? High? Low? Inscrutable? And why do you conclude whatever you do?

If you have no answer here, chances are you're not engaging Plantinga's argument.

Crude said...

Rank Sophist,

If we reject Churchland's eliminative materialism, then Platinga's attack becomes far more damaging. Even if science is based on something aside from our beliefs, we must believe or disbelieve in science itself. Yet, as Platinga says, the likelihood that our beliefs are true is stunningly low. So why do we trust science? It certainly can't be a pre-programmed belief, because many don't believe in it. Or is everyone deterministically pre-programmed to believe what they believe? In that case, then how can we say that a belief in science is better than a lack of belief in science?

One thing I'd add here is this: "Science" is just yet another instance of human cognitive activity. We form hypotheses, we imagine tests, we perform these tests, we record data, we analyze it, we draw conclusions, and so on. At every stage of the process, you're relying on human minds to conceive, analyze, and report.

The same goes for instruments we create. We conceive them, we imagine how they'll be used, what information they'll give us, how to interpret that information, etc.

Even if someone could imagine a brute hypothetical scenario (There are humans and their cognitive faculties are largely truth tracking, somehow), the probability question is a major focus with Plantinga: what are the odds, given E&N, that this will be the situation that results?

I agree with you - I prefer other arguments to the EAAN. But I think the EAAN has more going for it than people think.

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

"But it is a statistical fact that most people (about 80%) believe in God. Their belief in God is part of their cognitive faculties, which we have assumed are reliable. Therefore the conclusion that God exists is a reliable conclusion."

No. Not at all. It is a statistical fact that most people's belief in a god is the product of socialisation and enculturation. Left to their own learning strategy, I doubt that any person would arrive at a jesus figure. Just ask a Muslim or a Hindu or a Wikken why that is. So a belief in a god cannot be part of their cognitive faculty. The highlanders of the Papua New Guinea developed an 'ancestor worship' spiritual memeplex, analogous to our christian saviour-hero archetypal memeplex. The Hindus developed an elephant named 'Ganesha'. Therefore that a god exists is not a reliable conclusion; indeed it is no conclusion at all. Teleological speculation is perhaps a clearer descriptor.

BeingItself said...

"I prefer other arguments to the EAAN. But I think the EAAN has more going for it than people think."

As far as apologetic arguments go, I suppose it's OK. But that's like being king of the rats.

Apologists and apologetic arguments only serve to provide a veneer of respectability to otherwise absurd beliefs. They help the believer keep believing the superstitious nonsense they were taught as children.

Rarely, if ever, do apologetic arguments actually persuade.

cl said...

"Apologists and apologetic arguments only serve to provide a veneer of respectability to otherwise absurd beliefs."

Something tells me the fact that science does the same won't phase an intellectual chauvinist like yourself.

BeingItself said...

cl,

Science provides a veneer of respectability to otherwise absurd beliefs?

rank sophist said...

As far as apologetic arguments go, I suppose it's OK. But that's like being king of the rats.

Hey, look. It's a troll. Should we give in to his desperate cry for attention? Or should we ignore it, since, as usual, it is neither an argument nor a substantive claim? I'm thinking the latter.

cl said...

rank,

Yeah, you're probably right. At least Paps occasionally tries to grapple with the arguments. I should know better than to even attempt being reasonable with somebody like BI, who never makes any substantive points or arguments.

Bilbo said...

Hi Matt,

I don't have the PDF of Plantinga's reply to Churchland, and I don't know how I would be able to get it. Does it come with my subscription?

BenYachov said...

Neither BI nor Paps has anything intelligent to say here as per usual.

Matt OTOH is at least attempting to put up a philosophical argument against EAAN.

I am bias as to his success so far but at least he is seriously trying.

OTOH to be fair it is four to one against Matt but that wouldn't be the case if BI & or Paps would get off their lazy Gnu Atheist arses & actually learn some philosophy so they can at least lend a proper assist.

But they somehow think recycling there "If you are religious you believe in Faeries & superstition" trope will this time have a positive effect on the rest of us by destroying our beliefs.

Gnus man! Geez!

Matt K said...

It seems that if you isolate each belief then it seems more likely that each useful belief we have, we have for the wrong reasons than for the right reasons. But if you look at the cognitive system as a whole it seems a cognitive system that accurately perceives reality is more likely to produce useful beliefs than one that does not. What's more likely, that humanity has survived with broken clock that was right twice a day which was enough to perpetuate our species or that our clock works well enough that we can form true beliefs?

It's been awhile since I've read Plantinga's argument (and i only read it in the paper where he defended it against critics) but I remember wondering about this after reading it and thinking that he had not addressed it very well.

William said...

I agree that the web of what we know and do is stronger than global skepticism in general. Our metaphysical beliefs are not so well supported, though, and this includes naturalistic metaphysics, even if he believes physicalism to be just a minimalist metaphysical extension of existing knowledge. So I think that the EAAN shows that an philosophically consistent naturalist should doubt all metaphysics including his own, but he does not have to doubt that water is H2O, for example.

Crude said...

Matt K,

But if you look at the cognitive system as a whole it seems a cognitive system that accurately perceives reality is more likely to produce useful beliefs than one that does not. What's more likely, that humanity has survived with broken clock that was right twice a day which was enough to perpetuate our species or that our clock works well enough that we can form true beliefs?

I can name a few extremely (to me) big problems with this attitude, but here's one.

Do bacteria have beliefs? How about beetles? How about many, many animals that are estimated to be non-sentient?

Because given those, it looks like the natural world is swarming with successful species that can do without beliefs entirely. And if they can do without beliefs, why should it be a surprise that they can get by with wrong beliefs that happen to be matched with beneficial behavior?

Again, you have Churchland saying "Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism's way of life and enhances the organism's chances of survival [Churchland's emphasis]. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost." That should give someone pause, at least enough to realize that it's not clearly obvious (given N&E) that evolution favors true beliefs.

William,

So I think that the EAAN shows that an philosophically consistent naturalist should doubt all metaphysics including his own, but he does not have to doubt that water is H2O, for example.

While I think your argument has some serious merit, I also think it's misplaced with regards to Plantinga. I'd ask you what I asked Matt - given E&N for a hypothetical intelligent species, what probability would you assign to their cognitive faculties being reliable with regards to truth?

Papalinton said...

"So I think that the EAAN shows that an philosophically consistent naturalist should doubt all metaphysics including his own, but he does not have to doubt that water is H2O, for example."

It is science that informed us that water is H2O not theology. And it is science that is informing us [for those wishing and choosing to be informed, that is] that references and attributes to a supernatural and putatively live spectral entity, is superfluous to any reasonable proposition. The 'goddidit' suffix is humanity's temporary placemarker for those things yet in need of a good explanation. And history has been very clear on the singularly one-way nature of this trend. The 'goddidit' maneuvre is strongly analogous to a child's universal declarative response, 'because'. e.g.

'Why is the sun hot?" "Because."
"Why is the sun hot?" "God made it so."
"What is the reason zebras have stripes?" "Because"
"What is the reason zebras have stripes?" 'God did it"

Spot the difference, anyone?

And the EEAN is a contemporary temporary placemarker chiefly because Plantinga opportunely defines 'naturalism' as theistic modality, from which the argument then proceeds to refute as antithetical to religious belief.

There are innumerable arguments contra Plantinga's EEAN. A fully fledged refutation is at:
http://utoronto.academia.edu/AlexDjedovic/Papers/905690/Examining_Plantingas_Evolutionary_Argument_against_Naturalism

Djedovic begins, "Alvin Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism (EAAN) has undergone
significant modification over the years, and as such it is somewhat amorphous."


and concludes:

"EAAN, it turns out, is not an evolutionary argument at all. It is an argument underwritten by skepticism about naturalized content. This variety of skepticism is well-known. But in this stripped-down form EAAN begins to look similar to other arguments from the present inadequacy of naturalistic explanations, most relevantly the argument from design for biological forms. While induction is necessarily fallible, and therefore prevents a stronger conclusion, the track record of such arguments should not give much comfort to the anti-naturalist."

William said...

--quote
Given E&N for a hypothetical intelligent species, what probability would you assign to their cognitive faculties being reliable with regards to truth?
--

Crude:

I have trouble with the question as phrased. I don't think that I understand what it would look like for a species to be _intelligent_ but highly unreliable in its cognition. I can only see such a species as limited in some way compared to us, such as perhaps having no concept of shape or number.

Sorry, cannot answer you.

Crude said...

William,

I have trouble with the question as phrased. I don't think that I understand what it would look like for a species to be _intelligent_ but highly unreliable in its cognition. I can only see such a species as limited in some way compared to us, such as perhaps having no concept of shape or number.

Sorry, cannot answer you.


No trouble at all. But this is the essential question (or in the ballpark of the question) that Plantinga is asking in the EAAN. And I think, given that, any response to Plantinga that doesn't involve giving an answer to his question isn't really dealing with the EAAN as a result.

If it helps, consider intelligent to mean "capable of having beliefs".

cl said...

The thing I hate about the blog format is that it's not very conducive to intellectual conflict resolution. The same pattern usually repeats: we get into with Matt (or other atheist du jour), go a few rounds, then he bails, and nobody ends up any better than they were before.

William said...

quote:
If it helps, consider intelligent to mean "capable of having beliefs".

--

Since some eliminative naturalists maintain there are no beliefs, I think that there is some question begging in your definition. So, metaphysical beliefs are in a sense what we are talking about, since "able to have beliefs" contains metaphysical assumptions?

And yes, I would also say that to claim there is no belief means we cannot believe naturalism either. That type of self refutation does not require many words to argue :)

I return thus to my point: the EAAN is about doubt regarding metaphysics, not ordinary knowledge of the sort one uses to find one's way home:).

Crude said...

cl,

The thing I hate about the blog format is that it's not very conducive to intellectual conflict resolution.

Well, my faith in any kind of conflict resolution in this vein is pretty low. And in Matt's defense, I don't expect him to keep up with this or any comment thread - I can see these things being damn low on the priority list. Frankly, sometimes I go "Ugh, this is dull" and go do something else myself.

That said, I'm standing by what I've said in this thread - I think the EAAN is one of the most misunderstood popular arguments, since if people aren't assuming it's an anti-evolutionary argument, they're assuming it's a challenge to sketch some kind, any kind, of way for there to be true beliefs in principle given E&N. I also think the effects of the argument are more powerful than even Plantinga realizes, since he'd apparently take an argument for high reliability given E&N to be a way for the naturalist to emerge from the argument victoriously - and I think any argument that leads to that is going to be a pyrrhic victory.

Crude said...

William,

Since some eliminative naturalists maintain there are no beliefs, I think that there is some question begging in your definition. So, metaphysical beliefs are in a sense what we are talking about, since "able to have beliefs" contains metaphysical assumptions?

For one thing, as I said with Matt - if the response to the EAAN is to embrace Eliminative Materialism, I think Plantinga has already done incredible damage to the naturalist case. Talk about a nuclear bomb - the EM is toxic to most materialists, and certainly is so in a popular argument sense. Even Matt insisted you didn't need to embrace EM to reply to Plantinga - I think there's an obvious reason for that.

I return thus to my point: the EAAN is about doubt regarding metaphysics, not ordinary knowledge of the sort one uses to find one's way home:).

You can say this, but read what Plantinga himself writes. I think you're giving a very reasonable argument to a completely different line of questioning. Remember, EMs are an utter minority even among materialists - if the EAAN is treated as an argument that forces naturalists to embrace EM, I think it still comes out looking like an extremely powerful argument.

Steven Kazoroski said...

In the article it is saying that if Evolution and naturalism are true then we should be able to observe a capacity in people to hold false beliefs. I would say we certainly do see such a capacity for people to have false beliefs, hence this proves that this naturalistic and evolutionist view is consistent with the world as we know it.