Monday, September 03, 2007

Two dozen or so arguments for God

How many arguments are there for theism? Alvin Plantinga thinks there are a couple of dozen.


stunney said...

I heard him deliver these lectures at Oxford about 20 years ago.

I remember regarding it as a tour de force.

Anonymous said...

Why do atheists over at the secweb think Plantinga is such a push-over? Mention Plantinga on that forum and all you get is a bunch of sniggering.

Victor Reppert said...

Because theft has a lot of advantages over honest toil. For a good example of honest toil where Plantinga is concerned, read Keith Parsons' God and the Burden of Proof. Or some of the serious answers to Plantinga in Beilby's volume on the EAAN.

Anonymous said...

Because Plantinga writes that you are justified in believing in God if you look at a flower, while the Holocaust is no evidence that God allows unnecessary evil?

Anonymous said...

Plantinga is currently involved in a debate with Draper at II

No theists are rushing to his defence.

Victor Reppert said...

I'm not surprised. Theists arguing on the secweb discussion board very often don't get a very courteous response. I take it that's what you're talking about, the secweb discussion boards. I would have to be in the right kind of mood in order to do something like that.

Anonymous said...

Just look at Plantinga-Draper Debate to see that all you get is a bunch of sniggering.

Anonymous said...

Reply to the first anonymous: Because (in general) no theist is ever going to get a fair shake on those forums. In their world, if you are a theist then you are a proper object of "sniggering," and "sniggering" is always easier than forming an actual argument. And yes, I am aware that there are theist boards that treat atheists in a similar way. Irrational idological fanboyism shows no favorites: it has its adherents in every philosopy.

For the life of me I can't understand why some people can't grant that someone on the opposing side of their ideology has a good argument. It takes more cajones to say, "Yeah, that's a good argument, but I am still not convinced because of reasons A, B, and C," than it does to play the child's game of mocking and "sniggering."

Reply to the second anonymous: I've read alot of Plantinga, and I don't recall reading the "flower" paper. Do you know what journal it appeared in? Or perhaps there's an online version you could point me to? As far as I know I don't think Plantinga ever made an argument for the justification of theistic belief based solely on flowers, but if he did I bet it would be a pretty good one.

Anonymous said...

Reason and belief in God Section Iv. B , where Plantinga demonstrates examples of 'properly basic beliefs.'

'God has created us that we have a tendency or disposition to see his hand in the world around us. More precisely, there is in us a disposition to believe propositions of the sort this flower was created by God or this vast and intricate universe was created by God when we contemplate the flower or behold the starry heavens or think about the vast reaches of the universe.'

Looking at a flower produces a feeling that God exists and created that flower.

No feeling for or against God is produced by looking at people God abandoned to Auschwitz.

stunney said...

anonymous implicitly attributes to Plantinga the following proposition:

No feeling for or against God is produced by looking at people God abandoned to Auschwitz

Where does Plantinga say or imply that looking at horrendous evils produces no inclination towards doubting God's existence?

What feelings are produced in people experiencing or observing great evils, or flowers, is an empirical question, whose answer is provided by the relevant portions of empirical psychology.

So anonymous is simply setting up a blindingly obvious strawman.

Anonymous said...

'Where does Plantinga say or imply that looking at horrendous evils produces no inclination towards doubting God's existence?'


Plantinga occasionally doubts God's existence?


Anonymous said...

They think he's a push-over, because like the above anonymous poster, they fail to understand his arguments, and confidently think they've demolished that which they never interacted with. Such is the current thread on the topic of Plantinga's EAAN, where one poster replies at length, basically accepting all that Plantinga says, but then comes to the opposite conclusion.

If P then Q.
Therefore, not-Q.

Most of the participants on the secweb forums are hateful amateurs, just like the participants on almost all forums I can think of, regardless of ideology. They think Plantinga is a push-over because they know no better.

exapologist said...


I'm not sure if you're referring to me, but just in case:

If P= "the probability of faculty-reliability on E&N is low or inscrutable", and Q="one isn't epistemically entitled to trust their faculties", then I *didn't* reason in the way you assert. Given those assignments to P and Q, one could (roughly) characterize Plantinga's argument as a Modus Ponens:

1. P > Q
2. P
3. Q

If so, then I certainly *didn't* argue as you made out, viz.,

1. P > Q
2. P
3. ~Q

Rather, I attacked premise (1) by arguing

1. P
2. ~Q
3. ~(P >Q)

In other words, the auxiliary hypotheses of evolutionary theory related to faculty reliability may be low or inscrutable on N&E, and yet one may still be epistemically entitled to trust their faculties (since the prima facie justification enjoyed by beliefs issuing from basic sources isn't undercut by attacking these auxiliary hypotheses).
And since (1) is false, Plantinga's argument is unsound.

By the way, this isn't *my* argument, but conservative evangelical christian philosopher James K. Beilby's argument, who edited the collection, Naturalism Defeated?, who wrote the new book on Plantinga's epistemology, Epistemology as Theology (in which he briefly repeats and endorses the argument), and who wrote his doctoral dissertation on Plantinga's proper functionalist epistemology.

And I don't think I'm wet behind the ears on Plantinga's arguments. I've studied the bulk of Plantinga's work on philosophy of religion and epistemology (and indeed defended it both in undergraduate and graduate work, during my 15 years as a lay apologist and christian). When I was younger (and still a christian), I would drive long distances to hear him lecture.I've been out to dinner with Plantinga with other faculty when he gave a talk where I teach. I even very much *like* and *admire* him and his philosophical work (he's even more hilarious in person than he is in his writings, by the way). It's just that my confidence in many of his arguments has been diminished after looking at them a bit more closely, and with the logical and philosophical acumen that comes with a Ph.D in philosophy (and without the fawning admiration of the acolyte I once was).