Plantinga’s Reply to Tooley’s Opening Statement
August 10, 2008 — 10:16

Author: Andrew Cullison  Category: Uncategorized  Comments: 32

I’m just going to go through each section and briefly summarize the interesting arguments and offer potential responses on behalf of Tooley.
0. Plantinga’s Warm-Up Exercises
Plantinga warms up by noting that that even if Tooley’s conclusion that God’s existence is improbable given the evil in the world is true, the conclusion would not be enough to show that belief in God is unjustified (or in some other way epistemically bad) because the fact that there is evil in the world is a small subset of our total evidence. This is a point he returns to in the third section.
I. Justification
In this section, Plantinga spends some time presenting problems with Tooley’s evidential probability account of justification. He has two main criticisms. The first is that Tooley’s account of justification is circular. His second criticism is that it entails that all necessary truths are maximally (and equally justified). Let’s briefly look at those arguments.
The Circularity Charge
According to Tooley, epistemic justification for a proposition is a function of the evidential probability of that proposition. Plantinga seizes on Tooley’s candidate definition of evidential probability as – logical probability relative to one’s evidence.
Plantinga then pins an account of evidence on Tooley – Evidence must be whatever propositions one is justified in believing. And now we’ve got an account of justification that’s circular.
On Behalf of Tooley
Tooley could resist the claim that one’s evidence is whatever one is justified in believing. That seems like an odd characterization of evidence. Seeming states and perceptual experiences are often counted as evidence and those are not propositions that one is justified in believing. These things are not propositions that one could be justified in believing. Many would hold that they have propositional content. What’s odd is that Plantinga seems to countenance seemings states as evidence in section III (p. 175). (Of course, Tooley may have difficulties working this broader account of evidence into an account of evidential probability.)
The Every Necessary Truth is Equally Justified Objection
The more serious worry that Plantinga raises for Tooley’s account of justification is that it entails that all necessary truths are maximally (and equally) justified for a person. The idea is roughly that all necessary truths end up having a logical probability of 1 and so the evidential probability of any necessary proposition turns out to be 1 – and so all necessary truths are maximally (and equally) justified for me. But they’re not. So, Tooley’s account of justification is false.
I’ll set this one aside and let the probability hounds sniff it out.
Plantinga then retreats a little and notes that perhaps we can get by with an intuitive account of justification and proceed. Let’s turn our attention to Plantinga’s criticism of Tooley’s main arguments…


II. Tooley’s Arguments
In this section, Plantinga picks on Tooley’s argument for the conclusion that atheism is the default position, as well as Tooley’s main argument for the conclusion that God’s existence is improbable given the evil that exists.
Tooley’s Atheism is The Default Position Argument
Here’s a candidate way to extract Tooley’s Argument that atheism is the default position.
(1)There are, at least, two propositions such that
(i) those propositions are incompatible with the proposition that God exists, and
(ii) those propositions have the same instrinsic probability at the proposition that God exists.
(2) If 1, then the instrinsic probability that God exists is 1/3 (or lower).
(3) Therefore, the instrinsic probability that God exists is 1/3 or lower.
(4) If the Intrinsic probability that God exists is 1/3 or lower, then atheism (not theism or agnosticism) is the rational position given no other evidence propositional or otherwise.
(5) Therefore, atheism (not theism or agnosticism) is the rational position (given no other evidence propositional or otherwise.
Plantinga’s first response: Reject premise (4)
The mere fact that the intrinsic probability is 1/3 or less is insufficient for disbelief to be the rational position. Surely, says Plantinga, the instrinsic probability that there is life on Alpha Centauri is less than 1/3. And surely, says Plantinga, we shouldn’t believe that there isn’t life there. We should suspend judgement.
Plantinga’s second response: Reject (1)
(1) relies on the assumption that God (if God exists) is not a necessary being. For if God were a necessary being, then the instrinsic probability that God exists would be 1. (and we’re back to a similar point with Plantinga’s second criticism of Tooley’s theory of justification)
Tooley’s argument for the improbability that God exists given Evil
I’ll skip the summary of this argument. That’s what last week was for. Plantinga goes after premise (15) and (16).
Plantinga’s Criticism of Premise (15).
Tooley anticipates the idea that someone who thinks they have a theodicy would reject (15). Plantinga goes on to give a long list of other people who might reject (15), including theists who believe in fact that God has a good reason for permitting such a state of affairs, even if we don’t know what that good reason is. It will be rejected by many who justifiably believe in God and that God is perfectly good, who then infer from those two propositions that (15) is false.
Plantinga deflects the begging the question charge against him by noting that he is not offering an argument against (15). He is merely generating a list of people who might justifiably reject (15). Then he points out that it is Tooley who is actually begging the question. It seems that the point of Plantinga’s list is to attempt to show that Premise (15) must presuppose that belief in God is not justified.
On behalf of Tooley.
Plantinga says that (15) presupposes that people are not justified in believing in God’s existence. No it doesn’t. At least, you couldn’t read it off the premise. Whether premise (15) begs the question and presupposes that God exists depends on what the evidential basis for (15) is. If the evidential basis were, say, a strong irresistable seeming that (15) is true, then no presupposition would be made about the epistemic status regarding the proposition that God exists. (This way out for Tooley seems very similar to an atheological option that Plantinga discusses in the last section).
Plantinga rejects 16 for much the same reason that Trent did in his previous post – the short version – the probabilities here are inscrutable. I refer readers to that discussion.
III. The Justification of Theistic Belief
Plantinga notes again in this section that the probability of some proposition P can be relatively low given some other proposition, say Q, that you justifiably believe, but you could still justifiably believe P.

Example:
The probability that you are dealt four aces, is incredibly low given that the are only 4 aces in a deck of 52 cards – but once you see the four aces, your perceptual evidence, swamps that low probability and you’re justified in believing that you have four aces.
If there were some faculty of sense-like perception of God, a sensus-divinitatus, then theists may well be in a position like a card player. Even if the probability that God exists is low given evil, a strong seeming fed to you by your sensus-divinatus could swamp it.
Plantinga then pushes Tooley into the Warranted Christian Belief corner and claims that the issue of whether or not Tooley’s argument shows that belief in God is unjustified hinges on whether or not there is a sensus divinatus. Whether or not there is a sensus divinatus depends on whether or not theism is true. If there is a God, it’s likely that there is one. If there isn’t a God, it’s likely that there isn’t one. So…whether or not Tooley’s probabilistic evil argument makes it irrational to believe in God depends on whether or not God exists.
IV. Is Evil a Defeater for Belief in God?
In this section, Plantinga retreats from the claim that theistic belief is justified, if God exists to the claim that it is prima facie justified absent defeaters (if God exists). He thinks he has sufficiently established the best arguments from the existence of evil to the non-existence of God don’t succeed, but then he considers what he thinks is the “strongest version of atheological appeals to evil”
One might hold that a person attuned to the evils of the world might have a non-inferentially justified defeater for the existence of God – a kind of inverse to the sensus divinitatus.
Plantinga’s response is roughly that perhaps for some people with a certain belief structure the proposition that there is evil will count as a defeater, but perhaps for others it won’t.
I’m not sure who this is a victory for, if anyone. It seems to concede to Tooley that a wide range of people might not be justified in believing in God on the basis of their apprehension of the presence of evil. On the other hand, it does attempt to preserve the rationality of theism for strongly committed theists.
Am I right in thinking this: According to Plantinga, if you’re on the fence and not firmly committed to the existence of God, then a person particular attuned to the evils of this world of the sort discussed in this section would not be rational in believing in God?
I’ll stop there. I’m sure people have other responses on behalf of Tooley, and I’d love to hear them.

Comments:
  • Mike Almeida

    Andrew,on this comment,
    …the Probabilistic Reductio could be persuaded by the Probabilistic Argument that (1) is true
    It is true that evidence E from evil counts more against your belief in God the less you believe to begin with. The “relevance quotient” of E lowers as your initial belief in God increases. Suppose you begin with a .5 credence for theism and, as Rowe argues, E brings your credence down to .33. If you had started with a .9 credence for theism, then E would bring your credence only to .81. It decreases .09 in the latter case and .17 in the former. The short story is that the greater your initial belief in theism, the less significant counterevidence E will be. The less you believe, the farther you fall, I guess you could say.

    August 12, 2008 — 10:23
  • Mike Almeida

    That’s the wrong quote. I meant this.
    It seems to concede to Tooley that a wide range of people might not be justified in believing in God on the basis of their apprehension of the presence of evil. On the other hand, it does attempt to preserve the rationality of theism for strongly committed theists.

    August 12, 2008 — 10:28
  • Christian Lee

    If there were some faculty of sense-like perception of God, a sensus-divinitatus, then theists may well be in a position like a card player. Even if the probability that God exists is low given evil, a strong seeming fed to you by your sensus-divinatus could swamp it.
    Hi Andrew,
    I’m pretty skeptical of this type of response. Let me postulate a sensus-cardus, i.e., a sense of the cards that one has been dealt. Suppose that it seems to one that one has been dealt four aces, but has not seen them yet. What should one think about the question: Is one justified in believing one has been dealt four aces given that one knows it is extremely unlikely that one has given the possible hands, but that it seems to one that one has been dealt four aces? I suspect that we should think that, in fact, one is not justified in believing one has been dealt four aces.
    One might respond that we have no independent reason to think that there is such a sensus-cardus, but that there is an independent reason to think there is such a sense as the sensus-divinitas. I’d like to know what that reason is. It’s hard to see how one is going to provide this reason without assuming that God exists, and hence, that the probability that God exists is high, and not low, as the argument aims to show is the case.
    Moreover, there are independent good reasons to believe that there is no such sensus-divinatus. Many people (me included) differ widely as to whether it seems to them that God exists. And these people do not differ in respects that would make it plausible to think that some are just “more in tune” with their senses. These people are honest seekers, reflective, open to it’s seeming to them that God exists and it simply doesn’t seem to them that God does exist. I’m in this camp. However, the same is not true when we ask people from different backgrounds whether it seems to them that killing infants for fun is wrong, whether it seems to them that 2 + 2 = 4, whether it seems to them that nothing can be fatter than itself, etc…
    So it seems the existence of a sensus-divinatus is unlikely, and given this, and given that God’s existence is very low, much lower than 1/3 given the evils we see, one would not be justified in believing God exists.

    August 12, 2008 — 14:51
  • Andrew Moon

    Andrew,
    “On the other hand, it does attempt to preserve the rationality of theism for strongly committed theists.”
    But they can’t merely be “strongly committed”, since they might be strongly committed via mere wishful thinking. A sufficient condition (on Plantinga’s model) is someone who meets the following description: “Suppose we consider, on the other hand, someone whose cognitive faculties are functioning properly (from a Christian perspective); she believes in God by way of sensus divinitatis; this belief is supported and made more specific by the internal instigation of the Holy Spirit fo which both Calvin and Aquinas speak…” (p. 180).
    I found this passage (and the corresponding discussions in Warranted Christian Belief) to be extremely interesting. Whether your belief in God continues to be rational (in the light of arguments from evil, hiddenness, and so on), on Plantinga’s model, depends in part on your belief being caused by the internal instigation of the Holy Spirit, i.e., you have to be in a certain right relation to God. This seems to imply that for many people’s belief in God to be continually rational, they must take part in seemingly nonepistemic things, things that will put them in the right relation to the Holy Spirit, presumably things such as prayer, being in community w/believers, reading your Bible, etc. It’s like a person who knows he has a virus which will cause cognitive disorders and crazy beliefs unless he daily takes a certain pill. If he stops taking the pill, his beliefs will no longer be rational. Similarly, on Plantinga’s model, we all have a virus (sin), and we may need to continually act so that we are in right relationship to God so that we can continue to form rational beliefs about him.
    On the other hand, if it’s really the Holy Spirit that plays this role in sustaining belief, then it’s not merely up to us and our activities, but up to God as well. In this sense, Christian belief is a gift from God that would vanish if God were to just withhold his hand.
    So it’s to me that on Plantinga’s model, the rationality of belief in God might not depend only on the strength of arguments such as the argument from evil, but on seemingly nonepistemic things such as God’s choice to sustain belief or your own activities in sustaining your relationship with God.

    August 12, 2008 — 14:53
  • Mike Almeida

    Andrew Moon, you say first that this is a sufficient condition,
    A sufficient condition (on Plantinga’s model) is someone who meets the following description . . .
    But you talk thereafter as though it were a necessary condition.
    . . .Christian belief is a gift from God that would vanish if God were to just withhold his hand.
    I can believe that it is a sufficient condition. I can’t believe it’s necessary. But maybe you can change my mind. I’m also a little confused about this,
    But they can’t merely be “strongly committed”, since they might be strongly committed via mere wishful thinking.
    I don’t offhand see why someone who is strongly committed to believing p via wishful thinking is irrational UNLESS he is also aware that wishful thinking is the basis of his belief. His retaining the belief that p absent the defeater forthcoming from his awareness that it’s basis is mere wishful thinking doesn’t seem irrational. He would be like the naturalist who does not grasp EAAN and so does not have a defeater for his naturalism. Anyway, what’s the Plantingan explanation here?

    August 12, 2008 — 16:33
  • Andrew Moon

    Hi Mike,
    ah, on the first point, I think you’re right. Given what’s said there, it would only be a sufficient condition.
    On the other hand, I think that Plantinga thinks that the Holy Spirit’s involvement is a necessary condition for knowledge of Christian truths (WCB 268-280), and this led to the little debate between him and Tim McGrew in Philosophia Christi. I think that Tim McGrew’s not as skeptical of historical arguments for the truths of Christians beliefs as Plantinga is. (Also, I think that Plantinga wasn’t thinking it was necessary in the broadly logical sense, but necessary for any human in the sort of circumstances we find ourselves in.) I’m not sure where I go on this debate.
    On your second question, a Plantingan explanation is that such a process is neither reliable nor truth-aimed. However, suppose God designed it into our cognitive faculties so that we believe in Him, and the functioning of these faculties involves our forming belief in God by way of a strong desire to believe that there is a loving God. Plantinga writes, “Perhaps human beings have been created by God with a deep need to believe in his presence and goodness and love. Perhaps God designed us in that way in order that we come to believe in him and be aware of his presence…. If so, then the particular bit of the cognitive design plan governing the formation of theistic belief is indeed aimed at true belief, even if the belief in question arises from wishfulfillment” (WCB 197). On Plantinga’s view, this belief would have warrant and would be rational.
    So I added the “mere wishful thinking” to rule out this more elaborate possibility. It strikes me that beliefs arising by mere wishful thinking is irrational.

    August 13, 2008 — 12:44
  • Andrew Moon

    Mike,
    Oh, maybe I should add that we might be talking about different senses of “rational”, where you’re taking it in a more subjective sense, and I’m taking it in a more objective sense (where rational belief requires the reliability and truth-aim of the process forming the belief). Anyway, it should definitely be agreed that the belief won’t have warrant.

    August 13, 2008 — 13:08
  • Mike Almeida

    I’m with McGrew on the first point. On the second point, you seem to be conflating rational belief with warranted belief. I can have beliefs that are rational without their being warranted. I can form the belief that what I saw was a dog, not a sheep–to use Plantinga’s example–based on information from you. It happens that you lied to me. I’m not irrational in believing it, though I am not warranted in believing it. If I happen to believe God exists because I really want it to be so, that belief need not be irrational (supposing I do not know the origin of the belief), though it will be unwarranted. On the other hand, if I form most of my beliefs this way, then I am irrational.

    August 13, 2008 — 13:12
  • Trent Dougherty

    Christian,
    I’m not sure about Plantinga’s version of the SD, but as it is in Aquinas and certainly the older idea–referred to in an earlier edition of Chisholm’s _Theory of Knowledge_–of Hugh of Saint Victor’s *Occulis Contemplationis* as well as the yet Desert Fathers, the sense is not a “common” sense like the five senses which typical humans have in common. Rather it is more like the sense a wine connoisseur has after developing their palate by experience, or, better, the sense a wizened farmer has that it would be best to plant here and now rather than there and then. At any rate, it’s something that takes time and experience to develop–though some seem to have a keener knack than others.
    Perhaps the best way to put it is older than any of these sources, the Prophet Jeremiah: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (13th verse of the 29th chapter of the book of that Prophet)
    [For a nice treatment of the problem of Divine Hiddenness by a pair of Prosblogion contributors, see here: http://www.trent.dougherty.net/Philosophy.htm%5D

    August 13, 2008 — 13:30
  • Christian Lee

    At any rate, it’s something that takes time and experience to develop–though some seem to have a keener knack than others.
    Perhaps your idea is that if the SD has this feature, then it would be unlikely that (a) it would seem to many people that God exists since many people would lack the relevant development, and (b) lacking the relevant development, many people, for all we know, would come to different conclusions on the basis of their religious seemings, and (c) I, in particular, shouldn’t trust my lack of this seeming state by taking it as evidence against the existence of an SD more generally.
    If that’s your point, I have a few responses. First, we would need an argument for the claim that (a) there is an SD and (b) it has this feature. We should doubt that such an argument could be successful, in the first place, since all of our others senses fail to have this feature and all of our other sense admit of widespread interpersonal agreement. Second, above I mentioned that the relevant people I have in mind are honest intelligent seekers. Similar to assumptions made in the argument from divine hiddenness, I’m assuming that well-developed people fail to have these seemings. One could deny this, but I find such a denial extremely implausible both on the basis of empirical facts, e.g. Lewis is just as smart and nice as Plantinga and it didn’t seem to him that God exists (I think), and by introspection, I can tell that–though I’m no saint–I’m not a complete knucklehead. It doesn’t seem to me that God exists. So, it’s no good to posit faculties willy-nilly. We need a good reason. We don’t have one (not yet anyway). And we have good reasons to doubt the existence of an SD.
    Besides, I can build all of this into my sensus-cardus and the argument is no less appealing for that. So, again, the player is at the table and it seems to him that he has been dealt four aces. Here I’m making it explicit that on his view (and according to the Holy Poker text) the sensus-cardus must be developed carefully, and people must have a serious affection for poker in order for it to give reliable seemings. Is he justified in believing that he has four aces given what he knows? No. Neither is the Christian.
    A more plausible route for the Christian to go is to appeal to Epistemic Conservativism, then try to deflect the argument from evil by showing that it fails on its own, or that we have an independent and even stronger argument for the conclusion that God exists.

    August 13, 2008 — 14:33
  • Andrew Moon

    Mike,
    I don’t think I’m conflating rationality with warrant. I know that rational belief is not sufficient for warrant, since I don’t think that rational belief requires some sort of environmental condition to rule out Gettier cases. (So I think the guy in the fake barn case is rational in believing that there is a barn, even though his true belief doesn’t count as knowledge, i.e., it’s not warranted.) Your example is another case in point. I think that there are different senses of rationality. Plantinga hashes out at least five senses of rationality in the chapter on rationality in WCB (Chapter 4). And I think there is a sense in which a belief is irrational in virtue of its being formed on the basis of mere wish-fulfillment. I believe that this is a way the word ‘rational’ is used in everyday conversation.
    On the other hand, I don’t think that there’s a sense of rational in which warranted belief isn’t sufficient for rational belief. That’s why I specified the “mere” wish-fulfillment part. Wish-fulfillment plus God’s designing process (and all that other stuff) is sufficient for both warranted and rational belief.

    August 14, 2008 — 12:21
  • Andrew Moon

    Christian,
    I’m confused by your criticism. Plantinga has rarely (at least recently) argued that there is a sensus divinitatus, but that it is likely that there is one if God exists. Similarly, his three-part model of warranted Chrsitian belief is conditional on the antecedent that Christian belief is true. I don’t think he’s tried to argue, in recent times, that theistic or Christian belief is warranted simpliciter. They’re only likely to be warranted if they are true.
    This epistemic virtue is not enjoyed by other beliefs. Even if my belief that you dealt four aces is true, it is not likely that it is warranted. However, my belief that God exists is likely to be warranted if God exists. See pp. 13-14 of Knowledge of God for why Plantinga thinks this conditional conclusion isn’t a piddling conclusion. You may also want to re-read p. 177 for Plantinga’s emphasis on how his conditional claim applies to Tooley’s argument that belief in God is not epistemically justified.

    August 14, 2008 — 12:40
  • Mike Almeida

    And I think there is a sense in which a belief is irrational in virtue of its being formed on the basis of mere wish-fulfillment.
    I’m assuming we’re talking about Plantingan views, which may or may not be consistent with everyday usage. For Plantinga, what is not the product of wish-fulfillment is warranted belief. This is why I think you’re running warrant together with rationality. In any case, his response to the Freud/Marx objection that religious belief is not the product of a truth-aimed faculty (or an unimpeded truth-aimed faculty) and hence irrational is that they’re worry is not really about rationality but warrant (wcb, 152-3, 161 sec. III). Your’s seems so, too. But the fact that it lacks warrant, does not entail that is it irrational. As I think you agreed. In this particular case, I’m not sure where the irrationality would come from. We have stipulated that the person does not know or believe that the belief has its origin in wish-fulfillment. There is no violation of proper function in so forming beliefs (indeed, you would not be functioning properly if you didn’t form some beliefs in this way: if you did not believe you’d survive a dangerous surgery, for instance). It is not in any obvious way in violation of internal or external rationality. Beleiving that you’re a pumpkin may well not violate intenral rational requirements (supposing that it is not a wild response to one’s doxastic experience) and external rational requirements demand, essentially, proper function in forming beliefs. But as I noted, there is no improper functioning in forming some beliefs on the basis of mere wish-fulfillment. So I think forming some belief on the basis of mere wish-fulfillment, though unwarranted, is not in general irrational.

    August 14, 2008 — 13:24
  • Andrew Moon

    Mike,
    Hmm, welp, I guess we can turn to cases. Suppose someone is confident that America will win a gold medal in event X. The evidence doesn’t point that way (although it doesn’t point against it), and the belief is mainly a result of his wanting America to win gold. (While watching the Olympics this week, I’ve found myself having the tendency to do this!) Or take a mother who believes that her lost son (from a war) is alive, even though she doesn’t have evidence that points one way or another. The belief is mainly formed because she wants so much for her son to be alive.
    I think that it does seem to me that these beliefs are the result of proper function and they are not the result of truth-aimed proper function. Good so far, I think.
    But when I try to examine my general grasp of “rational belief”, I’m inclined both ways. When I think about the fact that these are properly functioning human beings forming these beliefs, I’m inclined to think the beliefs are rational (there’s the internal and external rationality). But I can imagine a neighbor who knows about the mother’s belief, knows it’s a result of the mother’s strong desire for her son to be alive, and says, “Her belief isn’t rational. After all, she doesn’t have sufficient evidence for believing her son is alive.” This seems right to me too. I guess this is why I thought that there might be different senses of ‘rational’, and that explains the difference in intuitions. One sense of rational requires proper function and truth-aim (although this is not sufficient for warrant, since warrant requires an anti-Gettier environmental condition to rule out barn cases and such).

    August 14, 2008 — 15:09
  • Mike Almeida

    But I can imagine a neighbor who knows about the mother’s belief, knows it’s a result of the mother’s strong desire for her son to be alive, and says, “Her belief isn’t rational. After all, she doesn’t have sufficient evidence for believing her son is alive.”
    Yes, I can too. But the hypothetical neighbor’s concern is that the belief is not warranted. But we don’t want to say that all unwarranted beliefs are irrational. So yes, I want to agree with the neighbor too in saying that there’s something wrong with the belief. But what’s wrong is that it is unwarranted. I take that to be Plantinga’s view. Maybe your suggestion is that Plantinga is wrong on this score (wait, AM saying AP is wrong about something…. that certainly can’t be right..:))

    August 14, 2008 — 16:23
  • Christian

    Hi Andrew,
    Plantinga has rarely (at least recently) argued that there is a sensus divinitatus, but that it is likely that there is one if God exists.
    He argues that God exists (a few dozen arguments at that). And he argues that if God exists then it’s likely there is an SD. So, er…doesn’t that seem to you to be an argument for the existence of an SD? Modus Ponens?
    Besides, there must be an SD if the type of response Andrew was mentioning is to work.
    Even if my belief that you dealt four aces is true, it is not likely that it is warranted. However, my belief that God exists is likely to be warranted if God exists.
    Why is this? What’s the argument for treating a sensus cardus differently from a sensus divinatus?
    Besides, I’ve given an argument to the conclusion there is no SD. What of it?

    August 15, 2008 — 2:22
  • Andrew Moon

    Mike,
    heh, there’s very little I disagree w/Plantinga about. I certainly think that such a belief is both unwarranted and irrational (in a certain sense). I don’t think the mother is saying that the belief doesn’t have “whatever it takes to turn true belief into knowledge”, although she would be saying something true if she were to say this. I think she’s saying that the belief is not rational in an appropriate way of using the word ‘rational’. I really don’t know where to go from there.
    Overall, though, I don’t think much turns on this.

    August 15, 2008 — 10:59
  • Mike Almeida

    I don’t think the mother is saying that the belief doesn’t have “whatever it takes to turn true belief into knowledge”. . .
    No, what she’s saying is that there is insufficient basis for the belief.
    I certainly think that such a belief is both unwarranted and irrational (in a certain sense)
    Ok, sure, but everything’s irrational in a certain sense, so long as I get to choose the sense. What I’ve been talking about is that it’s not irrational in any way that Plantinga uses the term. Old news by now, I think.

    August 15, 2008 — 18:20
  • Andrew Moon

    “there must be an SD if the type of response Andrew was mentioning is to work”
    What’s the reason for that? Did you read the section from p. 177 for Plantinga’s emphasis on how his conditional claim applies to Tooley’s argument that belief in God is not epistemically justified? It looks like for Tooley’s argument from evil to work (arguing that belief in God is not epistemically justified), he has to assume that God does not in fact exist (and did not design us with an SD).
    If God exists, Plantinga argues, then it’s likely that God designed us with an SD, and so it’s likely that many theistic beliefs have what’s necessary and sufficient for warrant. Plantinga spends pages arguing for this in the chapter “Warranted Belief in God” in Warranted Christian Belief (and in the opening of Knowledge of God). You can see the argument there. However, if it is in fact true that you dealt four aces, I don’t see how that makes it at all likely that there is a sensus cardus (or that we’ve been designed with us or whatever).
    At most your argument shows that there are some people whose SDs are not properly functioning or have not been placed in an appropriate environment (or the other things you mentioned). It seems to be a big jump to then say that nobody has an SD. (Your argument is that there is no SD, right? Not just that some people don’t have SDs?) The fact is that most people do have (or have had) a sense of the divine, and many cognitive scientists/ev.psych. people think that there are mechanisms wired into us which are responsible for such beliefs. I think a more interesting question is whether these mechanisms are a result of God’s design (truth-aimed and reliable) or a result of blind evolutionary processes (aimed at psychological well-being or whatever).

    August 17, 2008 — 13:45
  • Andrew Moon

    end of second paragraph should have said “(or that we’ve been designed with one or whatever).”

    August 17, 2008 — 13:48
  • Christian

    I don’t think that I follow Andrew. You wrote:
    “If God exists, Plantinga argues, then it’s likely that God designed us with an SD, and so it’s likely that many theistic beliefs have what’s necessary and sufficient for warrant.”
    If you intend this as an argument it’s invalid. If you add the premise that “God exists” then it’s valid. As soon as you do this the argument from evil is an objection to this added premise, one which shows, I think, that it is false. So the argument is either invalid or unsound.
    You wrote:
    “However, if it is in fact true that you dealt four aces, I don’t see how that makes it at all likely that there is a sensus cardus (or that we’ve been designed with us or whatever).”
    It isn’t supposed to. The argument is a parody. What it shows is that we need a good reason to think there is an SD. Merely supposing there is one isn’t enough, nor is simply going on one’s seemings. For it could seem to one that one has been dealt four aces, and one could suppose there is a special faculty responsible for it, but this doesn’t make the belief warranted. We need an argument for the existence of the faculty.
    You wrote:
    “At most your argument shows that there are some people whose SDs are not properly functioning or have not been placed in an appropriate environment (or the other things you mentioned). It seems to be a big jump to then say that nobody has an SD.”
    I disagree. I think it “shows” that nobody has one. Faculties that function as basic sources of evidence have important features that an SD, were it to exist, would lack. In particular, there is widespread agreement between people when it comes to visual seemings, to take an example, that some object is red. That is not the case with the claim that it seems that God exists.
    You wrote:
    “The fact is that most people do have (or have had) a sense of the divine, and many cognitive scientists/ev.psych. people think that there are mechanisms wired into us which are responsible for such beliefs.”
    I find that very surprising. Do you have any citations, or sources that document this? I’d love to read up on it. Notice, though, that even if most people believe God exists that doesn’t support the claim that such a belief is basic rather than inferred and supported by other beliefs. And I’m claiming that the belief is not basic.

    August 17, 2008 — 17:21
  • Andrew Moon

    Hi Christian,
    On your first point, the conclusion of the argument should’ve been a conditional (with “if God exists” in the antecedent). Overall, I’ve been assuming that you’ve read and are familiar with Plantinga’s main argument for the conditional: If God exists, then theistic belief is likely to be warranted. I cited the reference in the last comment, and I unfortunately don’t have the book with me to reconstruct the argument for you. (If you have a good objection to his argument, then it would make for a nice publication, since I haven’t really seen any good responses in the literature.)
    As to your positive argument that there is no SD, I thought you were arguing that since you and some other people don’t find themselves with theistic belief, it follows that nobody has an SD. As I said, that strikes me as a non sequitur. It could be the case that some people have an SD, and other people have an SD which is either not properly functioning or in the appropriate environment for the functioning of the SD. So they don’t find themselves with belief in God. I may be misunderstanding your argument.
    This might help. Suppose there were a virus that caused the malfunction of the color vision of a quarter of an alien species. Some aliens grew up having beliefs about the colors of certain objects and others didn’t. A color blind alien could argue to a color-seeing alien that there is no faculty (or faculties) responsible for producing beliefs about colors based on the fact that he and some others can’t see these colors. It seems that such reasoning involves a nonsequitur.
    Sorry about my lack of references; my information comes from conversations and reading things for which I don’t have the reference with me at the moment! When I get back to my campus, I’ll have more access to resources (although you may have to remind me to send them to you!).

    August 17, 2008 — 21:54
  • Mike Almeida

    “If God exists, Plantinga argues, then it’s likely that God designed us with an SD, and so it’s likely that many theistic beliefs have what’s necessary and sufficient for warrant.”
    If you intend this as an argument it’s invalid. If you add the premise that “God exists” then it’s valid.
    It’s a little misleading to describe Plantinga as merely arguing for that conditional. He definitely believes Christian theism is true and that it is likely that we have an SD. But then there is something to Christian’s worry: Plantinga believes that his SD plays an important role in warranting his specifically Christian beliefs. But what about (i) those that are theists but not Christians (ii) those that are religious, but not theists (iii) those that are non-theists. I don’t even mention those with more idiosyncratic or non-traditional Christian beliefs. This is a hugh group of people. The burden here does seem to be on the theist who says, traditional Christianity is true in all of its particularity, as Plantinga does, and an SD warrants me in such a belief.

    August 18, 2008 — 7:26
  • Christian Lee

    Hi again Andrew,
    If you have a good objection to his argument, then it would make for a nice publication, since I haven’t really seen any good responses in the literature
    I’m not a fan of proper function accounts of warrant. I think they are just a form of Reliabilism, with a false theistic assumption. It seems to me that warrant requires justification and that justification, insofar as it is important, requires access to the evidence that supports ones beliefs. And support needs to be cashed out probabilistically. I don’t, however, have any good arguments against the claim that, if God exists, then theistic belief, for some people, in certain circumstances, is likely to be warranted for them. I’ve been simply assuming this is true throughout my discussion.
    As to your positive argument that there is no SD, I thought you were arguing that since you and some other people don’t find themselves with theistic belief, it follows that nobody has an SD.
    Heck no! The point is that we have good reason to think that, as a matter of fact, there is no such mental faculty as a sensus divinatus that functions as a basic source of evidence. Our sensory faculties, memory (perhaps) and rational intuion, since they function as basic sources of evidence, have certain features. But an SD would lack these features and so we have good reason to think there is no SD. I’ve pointed to these features, and Mike has now just added to the list.
    A color blind alien could argue to a color-seeing alien that there is no faculty (or faculties) responsible for producing beliefs about colors based on the fact that he and some others can’t see these colors.
    I think this objection is worth considering. If I had sight and was in the minority (everybody around me colorblind) would I be justified in beliving that there is a red cup before me on the basis of my perception, or would the existence of widespread disagreement give me a defeater for my belief, since it would provide an underminer for my belief that I have a visual faculty that is reliable? This question needs to be clarified in many ways, but I think the answer is that I would be justified in believing there is a red cup in front of me. Now, we have an argument from analogy:
    P1. I’m justified in believing there is a red cup in front of me in my story.
    P2. My story is relevantly similar to a case in which one finds oneself seeming to grasp that God exists, Christianity is true, etc…by way of the SD.
    C. Thus, one who finds themselves seeming to grasp that God exists, and Christianity is true is justified in believing that God exists and that Christianity is true (even though they know many disagree and don’t share their seemings).
    What do I say? I deny P2. I think the cases are relevantly different. I can confirm my visual perceptions by touching things. I have a story that explains why others fail to see (brain damage, I don’t know). And I can have constancy in my experience (red things keep appearing red). Perhaps there is constancy in some believers lives, but one cannot touch God an get confirmation of the seeming from another basic sensory source. And there is no story of the brain that explains why either (A) it seems to people that God exists (where this is non-inferential), and (B) those for who this is false are brain damaged. Moreover, in the vision case it does not seem to the blind that things are not colored, but for many, it seems to them that there is no God. Finally, belief in colors is not sensitive to one’s upbringing in the way that belief in God is. Thus, we have independent reason to think that belief in color is “in the brain” whereas belief in God is not. And those are just a few differences.
    Sorry about my lack of references.
    No worries. Hope the above comments help.

    August 18, 2008 — 12:34
  • Andrew Moon

    Hello Mike,
    “But what about (i) those that are theists but not Christians (ii) those that are religious, but not theists (iii) those that are non-theists.” I guess I’m not sure what the problem is. What about them? Plantinga doesn’t think that there are no persons with malfunctioning faculties. Actually, he thinks there are such people. Furthermore, Plantinga argues separately for how theistic belief simpliciter can be warranted (if theism is true) and Christian belief can be warranted (if Christian theism is true). These are in separate chapters of the book (WCB).

    August 19, 2008 — 10:40
  • Mike Almeida

    Yes, I’m aware they’re separate chapters. But that has nothing to do with my objection. Let me see if I can make the point clearer. This response misses the point entirely,
    I guess I’m not sure what the problem is. What about them? Plantinga doesn’t think that there are no persons with malfunctioning faculties. Actually, he thinks there are such people.
    What the response fails to recognize is that there are WAY TOO MANY thoughtful, intelligent, well-intentioned people who fail altogether to see that traditional Christian belief is correct. The fact that there is such widespread failure to see this is signficant evidence that either, (i) it isn’t the truth or (ii) the SD that (some) traditional Christians claim to have is not something that they do have. The claim, “gee, I guess ALL OF THEM are malfunctioning” is nothing but an ad hoc way to skirt the objection.
    Here’s a little analogy to help us along. I claim that you can’t kill a pigeon with a .22 caliber rifle. You point out that they seem to be falling out of the sky by the dozens after being shot by such rifles. My response: “I guess I’m not sure what the problem is. I didn’t say that people don’t suffer from optical illusions. In fact, I claim that people do have optical illusions. So, like, what’s the problem?”.

    August 19, 2008 — 11:45
  • Andrew Moon

    Hello again Christian,
    Welp, you won’t be surprised that I like proper function accounts of warrant (I’m in fact defending one for my dissertation!), but that’s to the side and another big discussion. For reference though, Plantinga has developed accounts of probability within his theory. (For reference, in Warrant and Proper Function, Chapter 8 is his survey and criticism of important accounts of probability, and Chapter 9 is his own proper functionalist account of epistemic conditional probability.) He just doesn’t think it’s required for the warrant of basic beliefs such as some of our memorial beliefs (where I just believe that I saw Paul yesterday, even though I am not basing this belief on anything; I just have the belief, and it’s not supported probabilistically by anything). We don’t need to get bogged down in this stuff though.
    “I don’t, however, have any good arguments against the claim that, if God exists, then theistic belief, for some people, in certain circumstances, is likely to be warranted for them. I’ve been simply assuming this is true throughout my discussion.”
    Well then! I didn’t know you were assuming that! (Makes things a lot easier for me.) But I have a copy of WCB in front of me now, and for reference, the specific argument is on pp. 188-190, if you’re interested. Actually, your questioning it (or at least my thinking your questioning it) made me go look at it more closely, and I may post on it in the future. (I do think that the analogy with the sensus cardus fails since I don’t think there’s a relevant conditional that holds in the way it does for theistic belief, but we can leave that behind, or maybe I’ll post on that later.)
    On the last point, I’m glad you found the objection worth considering. =) But in terms of the dialectic, I wasn’t trying to make an argument here that Christian belief is justified (as in your P1,P2,C argument). I was trying to respond to your argument that there is no SD.
    I think I see your argument a little better. Is it something like this?
    1) A faculty which is responsible for forming basic beliefs must have property X.
    2) What Plantinga calls the SD fails to have X.
    3) So SD is not a faculty which is responsible for forming basic beliefs.
    Now I’m not clear on what X is. What, exactly, is X?

    August 19, 2008 — 11:46
  • Andrew Moon

    I just noticed that Tooley’s argument (in the recent post) seems similar to what Christian was getting at, and Tim has made a response in the next post to that in the next post. Maybe we should move the discussion about whether there’s a reliable theistic belief forming faculty to over there?

    August 19, 2008 — 12:08
  • Trent Dougherty

    I certainly think Andrew has the upper hand here–still can’t get ahold of what the argument against SD is supposed to be.
    I saw Christian summarize a good arument for the SD but then the discussion seemed to be derailed.
    I also didn’t see that anyone pointed out that some of the evidence for an SD is that people have reported having it. Lots of people who seem to be ready willing and able to know whether they have experienced it. And it’s already been explained why those who don’t haven’t.
    Like Andrew, I think that if someone has a regimented argument with plausible premises against SD, they ought to publish it somewhere. Perhaps they could test it here first.

    August 19, 2008 — 15:15
  • Andrew Moon

    Mike,
    I guess I’m still worried that you are mixing up warranted Christian belief and warranted theistic belief. For warranted Christian belief, Plantinga’s model requires the Holy Spirit plus faith plus the gospel message, not just an SD. If Christian belief is true, it’s also expected that many people will not believe (there’s the whole chapter on Sin and Its Cognitive Consequences, Chapter 7), but for many who do believe, the belief will be warranted (because it will often be produced according to Plantinga’s three part process). See Tim’s points on this as well in his recent post.
    For warranted theistic belief, all we need is SD to properly function in appropriate environments, and this need not include faith/gospelmessage/HolySpirit. But here, your point doesn’t apply; I believe that the vast number of people in the world have believed in some sort of ultimate divine power, a sense of the beyond, or something close to God. I’m more inclined to think that the few who don’t believe in God have either not been in the appropriate environment or have SDs which are not properly functioning.

    August 19, 2008 — 15:59
  • Mike Almeida

    I guess I’m still worried that you are mixing up warranted Christian belief and warranted theistic belief. For warranted Christian belief, Plantinga’s model requires the Holy Spirit plus faith plus the gospel message, not just an SD.
    The idea, I take it, is that knowledge of God (and knowledge of specifically traditional Christian doctrine) requires proper functioning plus the sensus divinitatus. But it is in specifically Christian belief that we have an account of how the SD is repaired. Without the assumptions of specific Christian belief, the effects of sin interfere with the SD to an extent that can yield Humean skepticism. I can see how we’d have lots of non-believers in this case.
    So I want to talk about the repaired, not the impaired, SD. The holy spirit is doing all of the heavy epistemic lifting: causing us to believe the Gospel, causing faith (or belief or knowledge), and so on. So let me ask you this: can we get access to the inspiration or testimony of the holy spirit without an SD?

    August 19, 2008 — 17:02
  • Andrew Moon

    I think that SD is required, though I don’t hold to this strongly.

    August 20, 2008 — 9:27