Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Is belief in God properly basic?

This links to an essay in which Plantinga argued that it is perfectly rational to believe in the existence of God without being able to provide an argument for the existence of God. The burden of proof, for Plantinga, does not automatically rest with the believer.


Jason Pratt said...

I certainly agree it's perfectly rational, in whatever sense(s) it can be accurately said that a sheer groundless assertion of anything by a person is perfectly rational. But while I think there are some important implications to be drawn from that (ones which ultimately do point toward theism via the AfR), I am doubtful the contention holds the kind of non-trivial strength the advocates of this line of approach usually seem to be looking for.

I also agree (in a related though also somewhat distinct topic) that person X does not necessarily have to present a valid argument for his beliefs every time he presents them, in order to be considered rational in believing their content; and thus that the burden of proof does not automatically rest with the proponent of the belief.

It is precisely due to my agreement with these positions in principle, that I am extremely hesitant to call any particular atheist 'irrational' in practice. Including the times AP would do so. {ironic g}

Jason Pratt

Jeff G said...

I see a lot of problems with such a view:

1) Being properly basic seems to mean little more than "being part of the culture/language into which one is raised." This leaves us with a significant is/ought gap.

2) The threat of cultural relativism seems to receive a strong support under such a view. A strong cultural relativism is hardly compatible with most forms of religion.

3) While a vague, non-descriptive belief in God may be basic, this says nothing at all about the particular beliefs which we have about God, particularly in what way His existence is supposed to have any kind of significance for our lives.

4) It seems to assume a picture of society which is far too individualistic in that what each person believes has no effect on those people around them. The fact that religious beliefs do effect the lives of so many people around us cannot be entirely eliminated from a discussion as to where the burden of proof lies.