This is another post about the first thirty pages of Chapter 1 for our Knowledge of God reading group. I hope Wednesday isn’t too early to start chiming in with posts. I’m going to focus on that item (iii) that Andrew Moon mentioned in his first post.
In chapter one of Knowledge of God, Alvin Plantinga argues that naturalism cannot account for proper function. According to Plantinga, proper function requires intelligent design.
The Proper Function Argument Against Naturalism
- If naturalism is true, then there is no proper function (with respect to human beings).
- There is proper function (with respect to human beings).
- Therefore, naturalism is not true.
(Note: I’m oversimplifying this. I’m translating all of Plantinga’s talk about naturalism can’t accomodate proper function” to “there is no proper function” – this oversimplification has no bearing on the puzzle I want to raise.)
I’m interested in the assumption that motivates (1). The thesis is roughly:
Proper Function Requires Design Thesis
(P) If S functions properly, then S has an intelligent designer.
(P) is incompatible with what seems to be perfectly acceptable talk about God. It seems to make sense to talk about God functioning properly – especially if we’re working with the concept proper function that we all have and use in ordinary life (p. 23).
If God exists, then God functions properly. If God functions properly, then (P) is false – because presumably God does not have a designer.
I think the main problem for the argument I have given will be whether or not we can sensibly talk about God functioning properly.&title=< $MTEntryTitle$>‘,’resizable,location,menubar,toolbar,scrollbars,status’));”>
Why Theists Should Think God Functions Properly
Here’s a reason to think that God functions properly – If God exists, then his creative faculties work. He has some powers and abilities to create the universe and when he attempted to exercise them, they were not broken. They were successful in bringing about the Universe.
Here’s another reason. Plantinga wants to limit our analysis of proper function to the ordinary concept that we all use. Ask average-joe theist if they think God has faculties or powers that function properly – I imagine the answer is yes. (of course we should probably call on the experimental philosophers to go out and verify that for us.)
Why Plantinga Should Think God Functions Properly
Even if your run-of-the-mill theist resists talking about God functioning properly, it seems to me that Plantinga should think that God functions properly. Why? Because the God of Christianity has some knowledge. In fact, the God of Christianity has a lot of knowledge. If the God of Christianity has knowledge (and knowledge requires properly functioning cognitive faculties), then the God of Christianity functions properly. So, the God of Christianity functions properly. Plantinga’s theory of knowledge seems to commit him to rejecting (P).
I’m sure there are things that Plantinga can say here, but whatever they are – they need to be said. (For example, it might be open for Plantinga to say that the concept of knowledge he and the other epistemologists are concerned with is not the same concept that we use when we say that God is all-knowing. At the very least, that would be a suprising commitment of Plantinga’s proper functionalism.)