A Puzzle for the Proper Function Argument Against Naturalism
July 2, 2008 — 10:36

Author: Andrew Cullison  Category: Existence of God  Comments: 36

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

  1. If naturalism is true, then there is no proper function (with respect to human beings).
  2. There is proper function (with respect to human beings).
  3. 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.)

Comments:
  • Mike Almeida

    Andrew, is (P) supposed to be a necessary truth?
    (P) If S functions properly, then S has an intelligent designer.
    Even if S is restricted to contingent beings, it does not seem necessary. Consider contingent beings that have the essential property of being reliable cognizers. Probably Plantinga has in mind restricting S to contingent beings that do not have the property of being reliable cognizers essentially. In that case, (P) seems more plausible. (P) seems more credible when restricted in the way suggested and made into a probabilistic claim. Something like,
    P’. It is probable that contingent beings that function properly and are not essentially good cognizers have an intelligent designer.

    July 2, 2008 — 11:30
  • Hi Mike,
    That might be right. Plantinga could intend to restrict this principle to contingent beings.
    It’s worth noting that if he does do this, then his own analysis of what it is to function properly is not fully general. (which is something he was criticizing naturalists for).
    He doesn’t yet have an account of what it is for a necessary being to function properly – as far as I can tell.
    So if Plantinga goes this route – isn’t he in a similar boat that he accuses the naturalists of being in?

    July 2, 2008 — 11:35
  • More thoughts on my first comment. Plantinga does say (on page 20) “proper function requires intelligent design”
    One of the main themes in his criticisms of naturalist accounts is that they cannot be complete analyses of proper function.
    This suggests to me that Plantinga takes (P) to be necessary. (Although he could retreat to your (Mike’s) revised principle).

    July 2, 2008 — 11:41
  • Hey Andrew and Mike,
    There was some discussion of a similar issue on Show Me the Argument many, many moons ago. It seems that P has given us the means for a cheeky argument for atheism with Andrew’s help:
    (1) God, if God exists, is essentially omniscient.
    (2) An essentially omniscient being, if it exists, has knowledge of at least one truth.
    (3) Knowledge requires warrant, which requires properly functioning cognitive faculties operating in accordance with a design plan.
    (4) But, God, if God exists, does not have cognitive faculties that function in accordance with a design plan.
    (C) God’s beliefs, if God were to exist, would lack warrant.
    (C2) God, if God were to exist, would not have knowledge of at least one truth.
    (C3) God, if God were to exist, would not be omniscient.
    (C4) God cannot exist.
    Now, this might seem like a minor problem (because it is), but you’ll note that Plantinga chides those naturalists whose analyses of proper function require an endless regress of ancestors. If Plantinga makes the natural move, which I take to be that it is sufficient for warrant to be constituted just as something that would have been designed by a designer (fill in the rest of the details), he cannot say both that warrant requires proper function and that the naturalist cannot say our beliefs have warrant in virtue of their lacking proper function. If he says that the requirements for divine knowledge and creaturely knowledge differ, I can’t see why the naturalist cannot draw similar (ad hoc) distinctions between undesigned creaturely knowledge and designed creaturely knowledge.
    A side note. How much material from the book’s first chapter is original to the book? I feel like I’ve seen pretty much all of it before in other places.

    July 2, 2008 — 11:50
  • James

    Andrew,
    Plantinga’s essay ‘Divine Knowledge’ in Christian Perspectives on Religious Knowledge (Eerdmans, 1993) directly addresses two of the issues you raise: (1) whether proper function entails intelligent design and (2) whether God’s having knowledge implies that God has properly functioning cognitive faculties.
    In brief (and paraphrasing) Plantinga’s answers are (1) it’s very unlikely that a purely naturalistic analysis of proper function is possible (pp. 59-61) and (2) we can sensibly speak of God exhibiting “cognitive proper function” but only in an analogical sense, which doesn’t entail that God’s cognitive faculties were literally designed (p. 63).
    Sorry I don’t have time to elaborate, but perhaps others can look up the reference and expand on it.

    July 2, 2008 — 11:57
  • Skeptical

    I don’t understand Almeida’s suggested qualification. Why would Plantinga want to say that the principle is restricted only to beings that are not essentially reliable cognizers? Wouldn’t he say that, on his view, to be a cognizer is to be something that has a certain function?
    It’s also worth asking why a restriction of the principle to contingent beings isn’t just ad hoc.

    July 2, 2008 — 11:58
  • Hi James,
    You note that Plantinga in an earlier essay makes the move to talk about proper function (and presumably) knowledge with respect to God in an analogical sense.
    That’s kind of what I had in mind with the parenthetical note at the end. I know some early church fathers make this analogical move.
    This still seems to leave us with a messy account of both knowledge and proper function. Furthermore, it seems open to the naturalist to talk about proper function in an analogical sense – perhaps something similar to what Clayton says in his comment (also not approved yet).

    July 2, 2008 — 12:37
  • Andrew Moon

    Andrew,
    Check out comment 10 at http://philosophy.missouri.edu/show-me/?p=436#comments. A buddy of mine asked Plantinga this question in class and he reported Plantinga saying what James just said he said. Also, check out the footnote in Warrant and Proper Function, p. 236.
    Here are some points raised in that discussion (so that you don’t have to sift through a long blog discussion). Most of the objections come from Justin McBrayer (in comment 11). First, it just seems crazy to think that God doesn’t actually or literally ‘know’. Doesn’t that do violence to our intuitions? (Justin recommends, “Ask your mom whether or not God knows stuff.”)
    Secondly, suppose my analysis of freedom results in God not being free. Isn’t that a problem for that analysis of freedom? So the same goes for Plantinga’s analysis of knowledge. It seems like a cop out to retreat God to a special case.
    Thirdly (following John Hawthorne), this view does violence to the connections between knowledge and assertion and practical action. For example, take “S is warranted in asserting p only if S knows that p.” If God doesn’t actually know, then he isn’t warranted in asserting things.
    I hope that the baby is doing well!

    July 2, 2008 — 12:53
  • Comments issues resolved. House cleaned. The unmoderated comments are now approved.

    July 2, 2008 — 13:59
  • Andrew Moon

    Clayton,
    Clearly new part in this section is pp. 26-30 (a response to Levin). From the next section (to be discussed next week), much of the way he presents EAAN is new, especially the emphasis on reduction and supervenience (30-51), and while much of his defense of dualism is in his Faith and Philosophy article “Against Materialism” (51-60), the application to other theories of mind (61-66) is new, especially his dissection of Dretske’s account.

    July 2, 2008 — 14:09
  • Mike Almeida

    Skeptical writes,
    I don’t understand Almeida’s suggested qualification. Why would Plantinga want to say that the principle is restricted only to beings that are not essentially reliable cognizers? Wouldn’t he say that, on his view, to be a cognizer is to be something that has a certain function?
    The reason for the qualification is pretty clear, I think. Why would something that is a good cognizer essentially need a designer to explain his cognitive success? He wouldn’t need such an explanation since he has the property of necessarily being a good cognizer.
    What about the restriction to contingent beings? This is pretty obvious as well. If something exists ans is not contingent, then it exists necessarily. Why would anything that necessarily exists require a designer? God does not create–at least for Plantinga–any necessarily existing thing. And certainly does not design them
    For what it’s worth, I’m not keen to reply to anonymous commentators. Others I’m sure feel differently.

    July 2, 2008 — 14:27
  • Skeptical

    Quite all right if you don’t want to respond.
    An intelligent designer is not called for in order to explain the cognizer’s reliability. It is called for in order to explain how the activity that the being is engaged in is cognizing. To be a cognizer is to be something the activity of which can go right or go wrong; but to be able to go right or go wrong requires it to have a proper function; therefore, etc.
    God doesn’t create any necessarily existing thing, but Plantinga surely entertains the notion that necessarily existing things can ontologically depend on God — for example, he considers that abstract objects might be divine ideas, which God necessarily thinks.
    Some folks think that God necessarily creates. One might go further and think that God necessarily creates, say, a certain angel. This angel would be a necessary being, but it would obviously be special pleading, given Plantinga’s views, to say that such a being’s having certain proper functions does not depend on divine design.

    July 2, 2008 — 14:40
  • Just a quick follow up.
    I guess I’m with Justin McBrayer. I wouldn’t ask _my_ Mom whether God knows such and such because she wouldn’t give me a straight answer. (But you don’t believe in Him, she’d say, so why would you ask such a thing?) But, I’d say that if the tales are to be believed, God is pretty much the most reliable informant in town. So, I’d say God knows lots of stuff. (I’d say similar things about swampmen who happened to be molecular duplicates of creatures God did or would create. It’s one of the reasons I don’t think design matters in the way P seems to think. If design is necessary for PF, same for PF.)

    July 2, 2008 — 14:56
  • An intelligent designer is not called for in order to explain the cognizer’s reliability. It is called for in order to explain how the activity that the being is engaged in is cognizing
    No. The designer is supposed to explain successful cognizing or proper functioning. Recall P.
    (P) If S functions properly, then S has an intelligent designer.
    The worry for the naturalist is that his cognitive faculties are undesigned and so are likely to be unreliable.
    Some folks think that God necessarily creates. One might go further and think that God necessarily creates, say, a certain angel. This angel would be a necessary being. . .
    Can’t be right. It doesn’t follow from the fact that God creates necessarily that he creates any necessary beings. So, you should not conclude that an angel is a necessary being from the fact that God created the angel and God necessarily creates.

    July 2, 2008 — 17:23
  • Andrew Moon

    All,
    Aquinas and early church fathers apparently thought that the predicates we use only apply analogically and not univocally to God. The “God just has something analogous to knowledge” move is a good move, I think, only if there’s some good reason to think this.
    But I can’t think of what such a reason might be. Wouldn’t it be weird if Nicodemus asked Jesus that night, “Wait, does God really love the world?” and Jesus clarified, “Well actually, no, God doesn’t really love the world, although there’s another similar relation that God has towards the world.” That would be really weird.

    July 2, 2008 — 22:20
  • Matthew Mullins

    Andrew,
    I don’t want to get to off track, but I thought that the analogical line of reasoning about God entered via Aquinas as a response to Maimonides’ apophatic reasoning. I think Duns Scotus had the right of it, as mirrored in the responses here, that knowledge of God is going to have to be grounded in positive concepts. If you have a reference to earlier lines of analogical reasoning about the divine attributes I’d love to get them in an email.

    July 2, 2008 — 22:51
  • Andrew Moon

    Matthew,
    I wasn’t sure how you were responding to me (or if you were hinting that I was taking things off subject?). I’m wondering whether there’s any plausibility to the view that God doesn’t literally know, which is what Beebe and Cullison have suggested is a way out for Plantinga, and the only reason mentioned so far in favor for this view is that our predicates only apply analogically to God. I was just wondering what the support for this view was because it sounded odd.

    July 2, 2008 — 23:43
  • Matthew Mullins

    Andrew,
    No hinting, perhaps I should have done some quoting. Here was the line that struck me with my added emphasis.
    “Aquinas and early church fathers apparently thought that the predicates we use only apply analogically and not univocally to God.”
    I’m not aware of other early church fathers who took this line of analogical reasoning, but I’d be interested in citations if I’m wrong. In any case, Duns Scotus had a number of arguments against the doctrine of analogy and in favor of univocal predication. You can find a brief discussion of his arguments in section 2.1 of the SEP entry for Scotus.

    July 3, 2008 — 0:33
  • Aquinas and early church fathers apparently thought that the predicates we use only apply analogically and not univocally to God. The “God just has something analogous to knowledge” move is a good move, I think, only if there’s some good reason to think this.
    Sorry to break in, but there’s a slight danger of equivocation here that needs to be avoided: the ‘analogical’ of Aquinas does not mean ‘analogous’ as in ‘reasoning on the basis of analogy or similarity’; it means merely that the concept doesn’t apply equally to all those things to which it is applied (its application admits of more and less), in such a way that you can identify primary and secondary applications. So, for instance, ‘good’ applies to both God and creatures, but goodness in God has to be of an entirely different order than goodness in creatures; the goodness of God is goodness is predicated in a less restricted and more fundamental way than the goodness of creatures (e.g., the goodness of creatures is derivative, contingent, finite, etc.). It’s like applying the word ‘just’ variously to the virtue of justice, to a person who has it, and to her virtuous actions; or, to use an example closer to Aquinas’s, like applying the word ‘healthy’ variously to an animal, its urine, and its diet: you are applying a concept that has some unified meaning, since each application has reference to one thing, the health of the animal itself, but is applied in somewhat different ways. Such is the idea, anyway. The reasoning that leads you to do that need not be based on analogy, and the concepts are not applied only by analogy, in the usual sense of the word.

    July 3, 2008 — 6:48
  • Andrew Moon

    Matthew,
    Ah, thanks for the clarification. I think I vaguely remembered somebody above making reference to church fathers.
    Brandon,
    Thanks for the clarification that ‘analogical’ for Aquinas does not mean analogous in our contemporary sense. Now take sentences such as
    1) Andrew knows that Columbus is the capital of Ohio
    2) God knows that Columbus is the capital of Ohio.
    I’m wondering how ‘knows’ is being used differently or how it would be of ‘a different order’ or how it is like the healthy illustration. Do you (or anybody else) know how that’s supposed to go?

    July 3, 2008 — 12:16
  • Mike Almeida

    So, for instance, ‘good’ applies to both God and creatures, but goodness in God has to be of an entirely different order than goodness in creatures; the goodness of God is goodness is predicated in a less restricted and more fundamental way than the goodness of creatures (e.g., the goodness of creatures is derivative, contingent, finite, etc.).
    Brandon, it sounds almost like ‘good’ applied in the case of creatures is closer to a borderline application of the term, whereas in the divine case it applies determinately. It would be very interesting were Aquinas talking about vague applications.

    July 3, 2008 — 12:54
  • The “analogical argument” for the difference between know and know’ appears quite similar to what one might call “special pleading” in other contexts. Is there any specific reason why that description would not apply here?

    July 3, 2008 — 13:37
  • Hi Andrew,
    I don’t know if it will be much help, but on Aquinas’s view the difference between the predication of ‘knows’ in the following two sentences has to do with the fact that in one the attribute is predicated as an accident, in the scholastic sense, and in the other it is predicated substantially:
    1) Andrew knows that Columbus is the capital of Ohio
    2) God knows that Columbus is the capital of Ohio.

    As Aquinas puts it (ST 1.14.1 ad 1), “whenever a name taken from any created perfection is attributed to God, it must be separated in its signification from anything that belongs to that imperfect mode proper to creatures. Hence knowledge is not a quality of God, nor a habit; but substance and pure act.” When we use the term ‘knowledge’ to talk about creatures, we are talking about some quality they may or may not have; when we use the term ‘knowledge’ to talk about God, on Aquinas’s view we are talking about God himself in terms of knowledge. One could look at it another way; on Aquinas’s analysis of knowledge, human beings like Andrew have different kinds of knowledge — intelligentia, which is suited to first principles; scientia, or knowledge proper, which has to do with conclusions; sapientia, which has to do with acquaintance with divine things; and prudentia, which is knowledge of what is to be done. We can legitimately apply all these terms to God; but while they each signify slightly different things (which is why a human being can have one but not another), in God they refer to the same thing. You might say they are different ways of talking about one thing, i.e., divine being. In Andrew they are not different ways of talking about one thing, so Andrew’s knowledge will always be more restricted in that sense, not including within it the things that are meant by ‘intelligentia’, ‘sapientia’, etc.
    Mike,
    Now that you mention it, I wonder if there might be at least a sort of convergent evolution on the point. There’s a loose sense in which analogical predication can be seen as related to vagueness. In univocal predication applications are related determinately to each other — predication A is the same, both as to concept and as to modality, as predication B. But in analogical predication, predication A and predication B, while closely related, don’t have this determinate equality, but are related by a sort of proportion of one to the other (hence the term ‘analogy’, i.e., proportion or ratio). There can be determinate proportions, of course, but there will be many different kinds of proportion that A and B might have to each other (what is referred to in A might be cause of what is referred to in B, or effect, or sign, etc.), which you won’t necessarily be able to tell from the predication itself.

    July 3, 2008 — 14:21
  • James

    One quick thought, just to suggest a different track to follow.
    Plantinga takes a particularist approach to epistemology, and his proper function account of knowledge is derived from paradigm cases of human knowledge. But then Plantinga isn’t committed to the claim that knowledge per se involves cognitive proper function. He could consistently say that while human knowledge necessarily involves cognitive proper function, it’s quite possible that other kinds of beings (e.g., God) know in ways that do not — indeed, quite likely if those beings are metaphysically unlike humans.
    And he could say this without having to appeal to non-univocal senses of ‘knowledge’. The meaning of knowledge is the same in the divine and human cases, but the necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge are not.
    Thoughts?

    July 3, 2008 — 15:04
  • Regarding James recent suggestion:
    Plantinga could adopt one set of necessary and sufficient conditions for human knowledge and a different set of necessary and sufficient conditions for divine knowledge, but before we see whether this is a good move – it would be good to know what the candidate necessary and sufficient conditions are for divine knowledge.
    If, for example, the best candidate theory for divine knowledge closely resembled some theory of knowledge that competed with proper functionalism as an account of human knowledge, then it seems that it would be simpler and more unified account of knowledge to simply give up on proper functionalism for human knowledge and go with the other theory for both divine and human knowledge.
    So the acceptability of this move seems to depend on what the account of divine knowledge would be.

    July 3, 2008 — 15:46
  • Concerning James’ recent comment…
    While P can make this move, it makes his remarks concerning naturalism and proper function all the less impressive.
    Suppose that owing to a series of quantum accidents, there emerged on the far side of the sun a planet just like this one with creatures that look just like us, speak just like us, etc… It’s part of the story that these creatures were not designed. It’s part of P’s view that they lack properly functioning faculties. It’s thus a commitment of his that they lack what we speak of as ‘knowledge’.
    This is, for P, a big deal. However, suppose that our use of ‘knowledge’ picks out a relation between individuals and true propositions that God does not bear to the same propositions. That some individual does not and can not stand in this relation to truths would be of little consequence if God could not stand in this relation. If we look at the relation between God and truth, God wants for nothing epistemically. But, in saying that our twin Earth denizens do not and can not stand in this relation to truths, P thinks this causes trouble for the naturalist. But, if the mere lack of what we call ‘knowledge’ does not show that there is anything epistemically amiss with the relations between God and the truth, why would we think the mere lack of a relation picked out by ‘knows’ shows that the relationship between the undesigned and truth is epistemically lacking? I can’t think of any reason (apart from P’s further argument that these creatures cannot have minds, which I think is a pretty silly argument–but that’s for another day.)

    July 3, 2008 — 16:28
  • Andrew Moon

    Clayton,
    As a quick point, Plantinga may not think that such creatures are possible. (Recall our discussion here, http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2008/06/theism-and-crea.html#comments.)
    However, you didn’t seem very moved by the arguments there.

    July 3, 2008 — 17:25
  • James

    Andrew,
    Suppose we haven’t the first idea what the necessary and sufficient conditions for divine knowledge are (other than stating trivial conditions like God’s existing, God’s having thoughts, etc.). Plantinga (so he would argue) has given us good independent reasons to hold that human knowledge involves cognitive proper function. Why think that those reasons should be overridden by our ignorance about divine knowledge?
    If, for example, the best candidate theory for divine knowledge closely resembled some theory of knowledge that competed with proper functionalism as an account of human knowledge…
    It’s hard to see why ‘what if’ scenarios like this should be thought to cause much trouble for Plantinga’s argument. Do we actually have a best candidate theory for divine knowledge? If we do, are the arguments for it as strong as Plantinga’s arguments for a proper functionalist account of human knowledge?

    July 3, 2008 — 17:27
  • Andrew,
    No, I was not very impressed with those arguments. The important point, however, is that it’s looking like a lot is riding on P’s insistence that it is impossible for there to be creatures with minds that were not created by God. That assumption should strike many of us as highly controversial. Even the fine-tuning folks seem willing to concede that it is possible, if highly unlikely, for there to be living, thinking creatures without an intelligent designer.

    July 3, 2008 — 17:41
  • I didn’t mean to claim that his claims are overridden merely by our ignorance of divine knowledge. My point was more that the case to accept the distinction has yet to be made.
    It is methodologically suspicious to rest a case against naturalism on a linguistic claim about what goes on when we attribute knowledge to God and when we attribute to us – the claim being that ‘knows’ either has different semantic content in each case (or at least different application conditions) only to plead ignorance about what this divine knowledge might be.
    There good independent reasons to doubt the move to make the distinction. And it would help make the move more palatable if we had some theory of what this divine knowledge might be – since there are some good prima facie objections to making the distinction. To then plead ignorance seems bad.
    I didn’t think I had given good reason to reject Plantinga’s move, but I do think it’s good reason to think that the case for making this move hasn’t been sufficiently made.

    July 3, 2008 — 18:22
  • I think I can refine the point from the last comment. The move to have two different sets of necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge (one for God and one for everyone else) might strike someone as a little ad hoc
    It would be good to have some independent motivation for thinking there were two different sets of conditions. One way to help motivate that there are different sets would be to offer some plausible account of what those conditions might be – absent that account or some other motivation for thinking that there are two sets of conditions – the move would remain ad hoc.
    (And I was thinking – once an account was offered of what the other set of conditions might be – it would be worth comparing it to other accounts of knolwedge that compete with proper functionalism)

    July 3, 2008 — 18:39
  • Christian Lee

    Hi Andrew,
    I don’t have the book yet. But would you motivate this for me:
    (P) If S functions properly, then S has an intelligent designer.
    Plantinga used to deny this. At least, I think he denied this in Warranted Christian Belief. He could say, instead, that (P’) is true:
    (P’) If S functions properly, then S is functioning in accordance with its design plan.
    If Plantinga were to endorse (P’) rather than (P), then the worry you have raised, which seems to me to be a nice one, can be avoided. For facts about God could be included in his design plan.

    July 3, 2008 — 20:53
  • Hi Christian,
    On page 20 Plantinga says “The basic idea is that proper function requires intelligent design” – that looks like an endorsement of P.
    In the start of the second sentence in the next paragraph he repeats: “Proper function requires intelligent design”

    July 3, 2008 — 21:50
  • Christian Lee

    Neither of those quotes favor (P) over (P’), right? It’s one thing to say that the proper functioning of x entails that there is a designer and a design plan, it’s another thing to say that the proper functioning of x entails that x is, itself, designed. And if Plantinga can avoid your criticism with the weaker reading, and if the weaker reading is consistent with what he says, and if it is for his proper function account of warrant, then it would seem to be a better way to cast his view.

    July 3, 2008 — 22:15
  • I should have quoted the entire second sentence. Plantinga says, “Proper function requires design; but the only plausible designer for us human beings and our systems and organs would be God, or something very much like God.”
    I think the previous quotes, plus the full quote here does favor (P). It sure looks like Plantinga is helping himself to (P) here.
    In any case: it’s worth considering if Plantinga can get the argument against naturalism to go through with the weaker (P`).
    (P) supports (1) in the original argument, but I don’t immediately see that (P`) does. You says that (P`) is compatible with the following possibility: S acts in accordance with a design plan, S is not designed. If that’s the case, then it seems open to the naturalist to ask why the design plan needs to be actual (and not merely hypothetical). Clayton suggests something like this in an earlier comment.
    Suppose we persuade the naturalist that the design plan has to be actual and that there must be a designer (though not necessarily a designer of him) if (P`) is true. I think we’ll still run into the same worry that I had before. It would follow from (P`) and the thesis that God functions properly that that functions in accordance with a design plan. If that entails that there there is a designer of the design plan (though not necessarily of God) it still follows that there is a designer of the design plan that God’s cognitive faculties act in accord with. That sounds almost as bad as saying that God has a designer.
    (But all-in-all the problem seems less severe if we can get the argument against naturalism off the ground with just P`)

    July 3, 2008 — 22:19
  • Christian Lee

    About (P)…
    I suppose I’m just not seeing the argument. Proper function “requires” design he says. But “requires” can mean entails. So if something functions properly then there is design, and a designer. That much seems fine to me. And he says that for us, humans, the only plausible designer is God. So he seems to be making the claim that we are designed, but nowhere does he seem to be inferring that we must be designed from the fact that we have proper functioning organs, say.
    But to your main point. Would (P’) help P1?
    P1. If naturalism is true, then there is no proper function (with respect to human beings).
    The answer seems to be yes. For there is a design plan only if there is a designer who has created the plan. So proper function would entail that there is a designer, and hence, that naturalism is false.
    “[I]t seems open to the naturalist to ask why the design plan needs to be actual (and not merely hypothetical).
    I’m not sure what this means, but I think everything that exists is actual. So if there is to be a design plan, it must be actual.
    “[I]t still follows that there is a designer of the design plan that God’s cognitive faculties act in accord with. That sounds almost as bad as saying that God has a designer.”
    It doesn’t sound so bad to me. God could create in accordance with a design plan, enter into relationships and love, according to a design plan. Why not form beliefs in accordance with a design plan? Would it make a difference if the design plan was an abstract object, existing independently of God? But agreed, the problem doesn’t seem as bad if (P’) will do the trick.

    July 4, 2008 — 16:37