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Showing posts from March, 2009

Evan Fales vs. Alvin Plantinga on Proper Basicality

Evan Fales and Alvin Plantinga recently had an exchange on issues pertinent to Plantinga's account of warrant in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Fales raised worries for foundationalist theories of knowledge and justification, and then brought these problems to bear on Plantinga's (externalist) foundationalist theory of warrant ("Proper Basicality", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68:2 (March 2004), pp. 373-383). Plantinga recently responded in the same journal ("On "Proper Basicality"", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75: 3 (Oct. 2007), pp. 612–621). The exchange is a must-read for those exploring and evaluating Plantinga's religious epistemology.

A Few Recent Critiques of Plantinga's Proper Functionalist Epistemology

Although by no means exhaustive, here's a short list of recent articles that offer good critiques of Plantinga's externalist analysis of epistemic warrant:

Dawson, Shawn. "Proper Functionalism: A Better Alternative?" Religious Studies 34 (1998), pp. 119-34.

Botham, Thad. "Plantinga and Favorable Mini-Environments", Synthese 135:3 (2003), pp. 431-41. Here Botham shows that Plantinga's amendments to his analysis of warrant since the publication of his Warrant and Proper Function (e.g., his clause requiring the beliefs to be formed in favorable cognitive mini-environments) are subject to new counter-examples.

Bardon, Adrian. "Reliablism, Proper Function, and Serindipitous Malfunction", Philosophical Investigations 30:1 (2006), pp. 45-64.

-"Two Problems for the Proper Functionalist Analysis of Epistemic Warrant", Southwest Philosophy Review 15 (1999), pp. 97-107.

Wunder, Tyler. "Anti-Naturalism and Proper Function", Religious Studi…

Update: Morriston's Opening Statement From His Dialogue With Craig, Plus Some Post-Dialogue Comments

Over in the comments section of the relevant post at Prosblogion, Morriston has been so kind as to give us some helpful remarks, as well as a link to his opening statement (along with the powerpoint slides --thanks, Wes!):

"About my "debate" with Bill Craig... It was actually billed as a "dialogue," it was a friendly event, and there were no big surprises. Needless to say, we didn't have a meeting of the minds.
In view of the interest expressed by some people in this thread, and in view of the fact that one or two who heard the "dialogue" didn't understand what I was trying to say about an endless series of future praises, I have posted my response to Craig's opening statement here:

There is also a series of powerpoint slides that go with my response. I tried to cover all of Craig's arguments in twenty minutes. It wasn't easy! I have included a link to the…

James K. Beilby and James F. Sennett

James K. Beilby is a Christian philosopher at Bethel University (now assistant professor of biblical and theological studies). He is known for his edited collection on Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism, Naturalism Defeated? Essays on Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (Cornell, 2002). He has since written and edited a number of other books, one of which is Epistemology as Theology: An Evaluation of Alvin Plantinga's Religious Epistemology (Ashgate, 2006)

One interesting thing about Beilby is the fact that although he's a devout, conservative Christian, and a scholar of Plantinga's work, he has argued in print against at least two of Plantinga's projects in philosophy of religion: (i) his account of warranted Christian belief, and (ii) his EAAN.

Re: (i): Beilby did his PhD (2002) at Marquette University. He wrote a massive (400+ page) dissertation on Alvin Plantinga's religious epistemology (An Evaluation of Alvin Planting…

Stephen Law on Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism

Steven Law's working out a reply to Plantinga's EAAN, here. I think he makes a prima facie plausible point about the probability of evolution selecting reliable inferential mechanisms. See also "Barefoot Bum"'s comment, which brings Donald Davidson's stuff on truth and interpretation to bear on the (im)plasibility of Plantinga's argument.

Theism, Non-Theism, and Moral Motivation

I. Setup: The Crude Objection: Moral Facts Require Theism
A crude apologetic argues that an adequate moral theory is impossible apart from theism. But as many theists have pointed out – and as anyone who has taken an introductory course in ethics knows – this view is subject to two serious criticisms: (i) there are a number of plausible ethical theories that make no appeal to God (e.g., utilitarianism, kantianism, and virtue ethics), and (ii) it’s verydifficult to give a plausible account of ethics that also requires the truth of theism. Thus, for these sorts of reasons, many Christian philosophers have abandoned this sort of criticism of non-theistic views.

II. The Revised Objection: Non-Theists Lack Sufficient Motivation for the Moral Life
However, some apologists argue that even if non-theists have no special problem in accounting for the existence of morality, they nonetheless have a problem with motivation for adopting and living the moral life. One natural way to spell out this cri…

Free Will Theodicies and Heaven

I'm currently toying with the following argument. I'm not sure if I'm persuaded by it; hence the comment box. ;-)

Suppose there's a heaven. If there's a heaven, then either there's freedom in heaven or there isn't. If there is, then freedom's compatible with the absence of evil. If there isn't, then it's not so bad to eliminate freedom for the sake of preventing evil. Therefore, either freedom's compatible with evil's absence, or it's not so bad to eliminate freedom for the sake of preventing evil. If freedom's compatible with evil's absence, then free will theodicies are undercut. And if it's not so bad to eliminate freedom for the sake of preventing evil, then, again, free will theodicies are undercut. Therefore, either way, free will theodicies are undercut. Therefore, if there's a heaven, then free will theodicies are undercut.

Very roughly, the upshot is that free will theodicies require rejecting traditional vers…

William Lane Craig and Wes Morriston Debate the Kalam Cosmological Argument Tonight

I typically don't care much for debates of this sort, but this is one I'd really like to see. Morriston has written themostforcefulcritcismsoftheargument. So, if Craig can refrain from rhetoric, showmanship, and debate tricks just this once, perhaps some new light will be shed on the argument. I'm not holding my breath, though. In any case, I trust that this isn't an attempt on Craig's part to make an end-run around having to give a rigorous response to Morriston's criticisms where it counts (viz., in the standard peer-reviewed journals).

If anyone gets or finds an audio or video recording -- or at least a transcript -- of the debate, I'd be grateful to get a link to it.

HT: Wes McMichael

SECOND UPDATE: Well, it's been over two years, and still no sign of a link to the debate on the ol' interwebs. However, I've received word that the debate with Morriston was videotaped. Meanwhile, a video series of the complete debate of the Craig/Carrier debat…


Descartes' Casual Argument From the Concept of God

In the Third Meditation of Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy, he argues that God must exist as the cause of his concept of God:

"So there remains only the idea of God: is there anything
in that which couldn’t have originated in myself? By the word
‘God’ I understand a substance that is infinite, eternal, un-
changeable, independent, supremely intelligent, supremely
powerful, which created myself and anything else that may
exist. The more carefully I concentrate on these attributes,
the less possible it seems that any of them could have origi-
nated from me alone. So this whole discussion implies that
God necessarily exists."[1]

This is a deceptively simple little argument. The basic idea it that my concept of a perfect being is so rich and expansive in its content - indeed, its representational content is infinite and perfect -- that I cannot come up with it on my own. In fact, no being less than a perfect being could create it, as the cause must be adequate to th…

Update on the APA Debate About Sexual Discrimination at Christian Colleges

Keith DeRose, a Christian and a leading epistemologist, is on the side of reason and decency on this issue. See his post at Prosblogion. See also the great comment by Jonathan Kvanvig, another Christian and leading epistemologist (doesn't it figure that theorists of knowledge would be the one's to know better?!).

By contrast, Christian apologists like William Lane Craig (signature #10) and J.P. Moreland (signature #87) are on the other side of this. I'm disappointed in them. Scroll through the signatures to see who else signed the counter-petition -- it's guaranteed to raise eyebrows.

Another New Article on Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism... Omar Mirza in Philosophical Studies 141 (Nov. 2008), pp. 125-146. It's a nice survey of the current state of the debate, along with Mirza's own addition to it. Free online access is here (click the "free preview" button near the top).

Btw: Mirza (St. Cloud State University) did his PhD at Berkeley, and wrote his dissertation on Plantinga's EAAN (dissertation title: Naturalism and Darwin’s Doubt: a Study of Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism). While writing it, he spent a year at Notre Dame on a fellowship for the Notre Dame Center for Philosophy of Religion, where he discussed the argument with Alvin Plantinga. You might want to order a copy of his dissertation, if you're interested in this topic.

Stephen Maitzen

Stephen Maitzen is an atheist philosopher of religion at Acadia University. He has written a bunch of good papers on the problem of evil, the problem of divine hiddenness, and divine command theory. He's defended an intriguing argument for atheism based on religious demographics in Religious Studies 42:2 (2006): 177–191. He recently offered a nice rejoinder to a molinist reply to it in the 4th issue of the 2008 volume of the same journal. His latest article in philosophy of religion is a critique of the Skeptical Theist response to the evidential argument from evil. It's out in the latest issue of The International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. You can find these papers, and many more, here.

More Must-Read Posts and Threads

More discussion of discrimination at Christian colleges at the Leiter Reports, here, and at Dangerous Idea, here.

And don't miss two more great posts (and their links) over at the Leiter Reports: one on Christians in the world of professional philosophy, and one on philosophy and theism.

UPDATE: There's a nice summary piece of the current debate among APA members about discrimination against gay professors at Christian colleges by Jean Kazez at Talking Philosophy, here.

Icelanders and their Belief in Elves

Roughly half of Icelanders believe in the existence of elves. So strong is their belief, in fact, that it halts construction and road projects, among other things.

NPR covers the story here.

What perhaps heightens the shocking nature of their belief in elves is that Iceland is a very high-tech culture. By 1999, over 82% of the population had access to a computer, and had 1,007 mobile phones per 1,000 residents by 2006. Iceland also has a 100% literacy rate, and produces an enormous number of citizens with PhDs.

Fascinating. I could just imagine a famous Icelandic philosopher arguing that belief in elves is properly basic. Sort of puts the notorious Great Pumpkin Objection to Alvin Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology in a whole new light. According to Plantinga, properly basic belief in God is triggered in a motley variety of circumstances: looking at the starry heavens triggers the belief, "God made all this"; reading a Bible passage triggers the belief, "God disaprove…

More Discussion of the Dennett/Plantinga Exchange

at Talking Philosophy: The Philosopher's Magazine blog, here and here.

The comments in these threads aren't nearly as good as some of the gems in the Prosblogion thread, but Jean Kazez's remarks in the second post I linked to are worth a look. Her main reply to Plantinga's argument (for the compatibility of theism and evolution) is "so what?". Her point is that the compatibility of theism and evolution provides no reason to think God was in the process any more than that the compatibility of "Demon Theory" and disease transmission theory provides reason to think demons are behind diseases; thus, considerations of theoretical parsimony leave the evolution-plus-God theory unmotivated vis-a-vis straight evolutionary theory. This was one of Dennett's main points in his exchange with Plantinga.

My main gripe with Kazez's (and Dennett's) reply to this point is that while it's surely correct, they fail to see what goals Plantinga is trying…