Reading Group Week 8: Tooley’s Closing Statement and Response to Plantinga’s Comments
August 18, 2008 — 9:00

Author: Tim Pawl  Category: Atheism & Agnosticism Books of Interest Existence of God Problem of Evil Religious Belief  Comments: 34

This is the last installment of the Prosblogion Reading Group. I’ve found reading these posts and comments edifying, and I hope the rest of the readers have as well. I’d like to thank Matthew for setting this up, and for the other participants–both posters and commenters–for their great thoughts.
Below I discuss Tooley’s response to Plantinga’s response to Tooley. Or, put another way, Tooley’s “Yes way!” to Plantinga’s “No way!” To keep my comments at a manageable length I’ve referred back to Trent and Andrew’s posts, rather than presenting the whole dialectic here. But I’ve tried to summarize the dialectic briefly in most places. For more detail on the original argument or Plantinga’s response, be sure to see the discussions of the last two weeks.


1 Plantinga’s Responses to My [that is, Tooley’s] Two Arguments
1.1 Atheism as the default position

We’ve already seen Tooley’s argument that atheism is the default position and Plantinga’s criticism of that argument in last week’s post by Andrew. Very briefly, Tooley argued (to paraphrase Plantinga, pg 165; quoted by Tooley on pg 233):

Step 1: The intrinsic probability of the proposition that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, wholly good being (call that being OOG) is as great as the intrinsic probability of that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, wholly evil being (call that thing OOE), and both of these is as intrinsically probable as the proposition that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, morally indifferent being (OOI) [N.B., they also use the term ‘a priori’ probability to mean the same thing as ‘intrinsic’ probability, see (236)]. So the intrinsic probability for each of these is no more than one third, and hence, the intrinsic probability that the God of theism (OOG) exists is, at most, one third.

Step 2: Given that there is no further evidence for belief in God, and that the intrinsic probability that God exists is one third, atheism should be the default position.

Plantinga questioned both Step 1 and Step 2. Plantinga questioned Step 2 by claiming that, even if Tooley is right that the intrinsic probability of God’s existence is at most one third [or, more strictly, the intrinsic probability of the truth of a proposition that OOG exists is at most one third], why shouldn’t agnosticism be the default position? We see this spelled out in Andrew’s post last week.
Tooley’s response to Plantinga here is to claim that beliefs come in degrees, and that they have to get to a certain degree for us to count as believing them [“once it is recognized that belief admits of degrees, the question arises as to what degree of belief is needed before one can be said to believe something” (234)]. The language here isn’t the best; you need to believe something with a high enough degree of subjective probability for you to count as believing it. The only non-arbitrary degree he thinks we can point to as the high enough degree of subjective probability for belief is one half.
As for agnosticism, Tooley claims “it seems best to use the term ‘agnostic’ to cover cases where one thinks that the existence of God and the non-existence of God are equally likely, or where one has no subjective probability at all concerning the relevant proposition” (234). So agnosticism shouldn’t be the default position, since the probability that OOG exists is, at most, one third, whereas the probability that OOG doesn’t exist is at least twice the probability that OOG does exist, and hence the existence and nonexistence are not equally likely.
I think Tooley’s understanding of ‘agnostic’ is too narrow. Suppose I know that all the humans in the world have been assigned numbers, the men getting odd numbers and the women getting even numbers. A machine just randomly picked a number assigned to a human. I’m asked, do you believe that the number chosen was even? I know that there are slightly more women in the world than men. So I know the probability that an even number was chosen is slightly higher than the probability that an odd number was chosen. So I don’t think that an odd number was chosen is just as likely as that an even number was chosen. So it turns out I’m not agnostic about whether an even number was chosen. And this even if I certainly think both that I’m agnostic about it and that I don’t believe that an even number was chosen.
Plantinga objected to the Step 1 by saying that he thought the only reason one would affirm that the a priori probability of OOE is as great as that of OOG is that “one can’t see a difference in their probabilities” (169; quoted by Tooley, 236). Tooley responds that he has a reason for thinking that the a priori probability of OOE is as great as that of OOG. Tooley asks us to assume a sparse theory of properties, like Armstrong’s (1978). Properties are identified with genuine universals and there are no negative or disjunctive properties. Now consider these two principles:

Principle 1: State descriptions and permutations of individuals. Any two state descriptions that differ only be a permutation of individuals are equally likely.

Principle 2: State descriptions and families of properties. Any two state descriptions that differ only by a permutation of properties belonging to a family of properties are equally likely.

A ‘state description’ is “a certain conjunction of atomic propositions and their negations” (239). and a ‘family of properties’ is “a maximal set of mutually incompatible, non-conjunctive properties” (237).
Now Tooley argues as follows for the claim that the existence of OOE is at least as likely as the existence of OOG. The property of always choosing to do what is right, call it P, is a genuine property, and hence a universal. The property of always choosing to do what is wrong, call it Q, is also a genuine property, and hence a universal. Form the family of properties that contains these two properties, P and Q. Consider a state description that involves an OOG person who has property P. Replace the P with a Q, hence forming a state description with an OOE. By the second principle, these two state descriptions must be equally likely. So it is equally likely that OOG exists as it is that OOE exists. And a similar argument can be run for OOI. So here we have a reason for believing that OOG and OOE are equally likely.
Some comments on this argument. First, I’m not sure that sparse universal theorists want properties like P and Q as their universals. As I understand it, fans of sparse universals don’t want any more universals than those that a complete science would require.
Second, note that the family of properties that contains P and Q either contains just one more property, that which something has when it is morally indifferent, call it R, or many more properties, one for each grade of moral property a thing can have. It seems that it should contain more than just R, since there are many more salient divisions concerning morality to be made than just ‘always does good’, ‘always does evil’, and ‘is morally indifferent.’ In fact, it seems that almost all (if not all) humans lack all three of these moral properties. And we know we have moral properties (at least we know that, if there are moral properties, then we are the sorts of things that have them). So there should be more than just these three, P, Q, R.
The knowledge that there are more properties in this family than P, Q, and R should help Tooley here. In particular, his argument against theism should get stronger, since there aren’t just three possible OO beings that are equally likely (e.g., OOG, OOE, OOI), there are as many as there are incompatible moral properties in the family with P and Q. Surely there are at least two moral properties had by humans. So the family of moral properties contains at least 5 properties (but surely more, given the vast number of moral properties we see in this world). That means that the a priori probability of OOG is no greater than one fifth. And, of course, the more moral properties there are, the worse it gets for theism. So, all that to say, if Tooley can have moral properties as sparse universals (and I don’t see why he can’t, even if it isn’t typical, so far as I know), and can have Principle 2, it seems like he has an argument for why the probability of OOG is no greater than the probability of OOE. It also seems like he has a better argument for atheism being the default position.
I don’t think Tooley can have Principle 2. here’s a potential counterexample. Consider a property that sparse universalists are happy to accept: having a mass of 100 kilograms (call this property U). Consider another property which is incompatible with it: having a mass of 110 kilograms (call this property V). Now form the family of properties which includes these two properties. The family will include all incompatible mass properties. Now consider a state description that includes a human, Bob, with property U. Replace U with V. By Principle 2, the state description with Bob having V is just as a priori probable as the state description with Bob having U. So far so good. But now consider all the other members of the mass family. The state description where Bob has property W, the property of having a mass of 100,000 kilograms, is, by Principle 2, just as a priori probable as the state description where Bob has a mass of 100 kilograms. But that’s not true! It is impossible that a human have that much mass. Likewise, consider the mass of an electron. It is just as a priori probable, given Principle 2, that a human have the mass of 100 kilograms as that he have the mass of an electron. But again, a human can’t have that little mass. So Principle 2 is false.

1.2 The argument from evil

In this section Tooley responds to Plantinga’s critiques of his premises 15 and 16.

(15) No rightmaking properties that we know of are such that we are justified in believing both that an action of choosing not to prevent the Lisbon earthquake would have had those rightmaking properties, and that those properties are sufficiently serious to counterbalance the relevant wrongmaking properties.

As Andrew mentioned last week, Plantinga claims that 15 assumes that belief in God is not justified. But Tooley (and Andrew last week) point out that this isn’t quite right. Belief in God could be completely justified and it still be true that we don’t know of a candidate rightmaking property for the Lisbon earthquake.
—-

(16) For any action whatever, the logical probability that the total wrong-making properties of the action outweigh the total rightmaking properties–including ones of which we have no knowledge–given that the action has a wrongmaking property that we know of, and there are no rightmaking properties that are known to be counterbalancing, is greater than one half.

Plantinga’s argument, as Andrew said, is pretty much the same as Trent’s from two weeks ago: the probabilities in question are inscrutable. So, just as Andrew did, I’ll refer you to Trent’s discussion. Tooley, in his response, offers arguments on behalf of two claims he made in his main selection, claims which he used to support 16:

(1) Judged from a purely a priori view, the mere existence of wrongmaking properties is no less likely than the existence of rightmaking properties.

(2) Judged from a purely a priori point of view, the likelihood that there exists a rightmaking property with a moral weight whose absolute value is equal to M is no greater than the likelihood that there exists a wrongmaking property whose absolute value is equal to M.

Tooley offers arguments on behalf of these two claims, which again depend on his Principle 2, which I’ve argued against above. His argument is that the property, being a rightmaking property, is part of the family which includes these other two properties: being a wrongmaking property and being a morally neutral property. So the state description which includes that a is a rightmaking property will be no more or less a priori likely (by Principle 2) that a state description that includes that a is a wrongmaking property. Thus, (1) is true. And we can give a similar argument for (2). From this, Tooley thinks we have good reasons to affirm (1) and (2), which in turn are reasons for affirming (16).
I don’t have anything to say against the above argument other than to say that I think that Principle 2 is false. Hence the argument, in my estimation, isn’t sound.
One worry I have about claiming Principle 2 to be false, though, is the following. Tooley says of his Principles 1 and 2: “There are certain general principles that serve to capture what is correct in the classical principle of indifference. Those principles, moreover, are needed for inductive logic: if one rejects them, inductive skepticism appears inescapable” (240). Is he right here? Am I stepping into inductive skepticism by rejecting Principle 2? And why think that 1 and 2 are necessary conditions for inductive logic anyway?

2.1 Internalist versus externalist accounts of justification

In this section Tooley considers and rejects the claim which he paraphrases from Plantinga: “a proposition’s “seeming right,” or “an inclination to believe” a proposition, constitutes non-propositional evidence for the proposition, and renders acceptance of the proposition non-inferentially justified in the absence of defeaters” (241).
Instead, Tooley accepts:

“one is non-inferentially justified in believing that p if and only if one is directly acquainted with some state of affairs T that is a truthmaker for p” 241-242)

.
Some problems with this. If Tooley is following Armstrong here, he will run into some small problems. For, according to Armstrong, there isn’t a state of affairs that makes it true that Armstrong exists. Rather, Armstrong himself, the very man, makes it true. And likewise for all other affirmations of existence. (Sure, some affirmations of existence will require states of affairs, but those will only be the propositions which affirm the existence of some state of affairs.) And this means that one can never be non-inferentially justified in believing any proposition which represents the existence of something (besides, again, states of affairs). Also, Armstrong claims that necessary truths do not require states of affairs, but rather objects, to make them true (Armstrong 2004, pg 98). These small problems are eliminated if Tooley drops “state of affairs” from his definition of non-inferential justification.

2.2 Is there a reliable belief-forming faculty in the case of religious beliefs?

Tooley gives two arguments that there isn’t. First, Tooley argues that in cases where there are reliable, general belief-forming mechanisms, such as perception, memory, and deductive reasoning, we find massive intersubjective agreement. In addition, the intersubjective agreement reached in such cases isn’t dependent on one’s societal background or indoctrination and is universal across human societies. However, we don’t find such agreement concerning religious matters. And there is a very strong correlation between societal background and indoctrination, on the one hand, and religious beliefs, on the other. So there is no reliable belief-forming faculty in the case of religious beliefs.
Second, one might want to limit the belief-forming mechanism that gives rise to reliable beliefs about the nature and existence of God. But even here there are reasons to deny such a limited mechanism. He gives 5 reasons, such as the long duration of human history and vast number of people (even today) who are not monotheists. Or how education or exposure to philosophical thinking correlate with a decline of belief in God. These reasons are meant to show that even a limited mechanism isn’t at work in humanity at large, since if there were one.
But what if, as Andrew Moon suggested in his first comment on Andrew Cullison’s post, the reliable mechanism needs to be pumped with proper action for it to work right. We know the mechanisms for sight work like this, and surely we’ve learned from teaching logic that the mechanisms for logical thought do as well. Oliver Sacks reports of a case study concerning a 60 year-old woman who never had the proper stimulus to learn to use her hands. She had no reliable mechanism for telling what a thing is by feeling it (she couldn’t tell that a hand was a hand, for instance). But after some pumping, she gained a reliable ability to use her hands as normal adults do. Perhaps the SD needs to be properly pumped to get working. And perhaps that proper pumping, or lack thereof, accounts for the discrepancies across groups. But then one wonders, isn’t the SD working in Catholics and Calvinists? If so, is it going haywire in one of these two groups? Or does the SD really say very little? Perhaps it is just the mechanism that gets us the belief that OOG exists, and from there we are on our own?
But do either of Tooley’s arguments show that there isn’t a mechanism that, once properly pumped, produces reliable beliefs about the existence of God?
3 The Argument from Evil Versus Justifications for Believing in the Existence of God
3.1 Non-inferentially justified belief in God?

Here Tooley rehearses what he has done so far.
3.2 Inferentially justified belief in God
Tooley discusses arguments for the existence of God in this section, quickly giving short paragraphs on the arguments from religious experience and miracles, then discussing the ontological argument in a bit more detail.
Tooley appears to claim that the proposition, possibly, p is true if and only if there is no “sequence of propositions that leads from p to some formal contradiction, where each step is related to one or more earlier steps either by formally valid rules of inference, or by substitution in accordance with some definition, or via an incompatibility of universals” (247). Now consider this in relation to the ontological argument. If the ontological argument is sound, then the proposition necessarily, there is an OOG is true. If that proposition is true, then the proposition, possibly, there is no OOG is impossible. If possibly, there is no OOG is impossible, then there must be some derivation of the kind he mentions above showing a formal contradiction from that there is no OOG. But no one has ever produced such a derivation. So we are not justified in believing that there is a derivation of the kind he mentions. And from here we reason backwards to the claim that we aren’t justified in believing that necessarily, there is an OOG is true.
I have a suspicion that there might be a tu quoque here somewhere from the fact that there is no derivation from that there is an OOG to a formal contradiction. If there is such a derivation, why did Tooley waste time with these probabilistic arguments when there’s a valid argument that shows a contradiction from that there is an OOG out there? Anyway, I leave the formation of the tu quoque, of the arguments for why there is no tu quoque, to the comments.
What I would especially like to see discussed is Principle 2. Why do I need it for inductive logic, and why must I be an inductive skeptic if I reject it (which I do). And if I do need it, what’s wrong with the counterexample I give against it?

Comments:
  • Christian Lee

    Hi Tim,
    So it turns out I’m not agnostic about whether an even number was chosen. And this even if I certainly think both that I’m agnostic about it and that I don’t believe that an even number was chosen.
    This type of criticism may be right. We do seem to use the term ‘agnostic’ more broadly. But, then again, this seems to be a very smallish issue. If we end up thinking that the probability that God exists is very, very low, that seems to me to be what matters, whether or not we say that justifies only agnosticism or atheism instead. For probabilities (beliefs about them) explain behavior, Tooley’s conclusion will be sufficient to show that it is irrational to act as though God exists.
    But again, a human can’t have that little mass. So Principle 2 is false.
    I don’t think this type of counterexample will work. I think the a priori probability that a human will have 100,000kg mass = the probability that she will have 100kg mass. The only reason to deny this is that the conditional probability of the first is much lower than the conditional probability of the second (because of experience), and Tooley certainly agrees with that. A more troublesome worry for Tooley are the “alleged” counterexamples to the principle of indifference.
    Is he right here? Am I stepping into inductive skepticism by rejecting Principle 2?
    Tooley is writing a paper on this now, and the general idea is that we should be able to update our probabilities in a certain way that denying principles like Princ.1 and Princ.P2 would not allow. I pull a red ball from the earn, have no idea whether the next one will be red too. What probability should I assign to the claim that the next one will be red, given that I’ve drawn a red? Now keep drawing reds…later, ask, how likely is it that the next one will be red? Answer: The more reds one draws the more likely it is, given what one has to go on, that the next one will be red. But it is hard to see how one is going to get this result without accepting principles like those Tooley is depending upon. At any rate, if one is going to deny the principles, one must explain why it’s reasonable to assign probability 1/6 to the proposition that the next role of the fair die will be 6.
    Plantinga’s argument, as Andrew said, is pretty much the same as Trent’s from two weeks ago: the probabilities in question are inscrutable.
    This is an unsatisfactory reply. That the next die will land 6 gets probabilitity 1/6. And this is right, not inscrutable. I’d like to hear a story that explains why the instantiation of certain counterbalancing right-making properties is inscrutable, while the assignment of 1/6 to the die’s landing 6 is not. Moreover, I’d like to see why this appeal to inscrutability doesn’t lead to moral skepticism since it will also be inscrutable whether any action is objectively right. Tooley can answer all of these questions quickly and satisfactorily, but his opponents have not.
    Rather, Armstrong himself, the very man, makes it true.
    The state of affairs that includes Armstrong does. I don’t see why we should deny this.

    August 18, 2008 — 13:16
  • Tim Pawl

    Hey Christian,
    Thanks for the response.
    To your first point, about the smallish nature of my claims about Tooley’s use of ‘agnostic’, I agree. What matters isn’t so much how we use the term, but what the probabilities warrant about our beliefs (or, what beliefs the probabilities warrant). Tooley says something similar near the end of his discussion of ‘agnosticism’.
    To your second point, about whether my counterexample to Principle 2 works, I’m still inclined to think it does. The a priori probability (sometimes called ‘intrinsic probability’ by T & P) of a human having the mass of an electron should be 0, since it is impossible that a human have the mass of an electron. But the intrinsic probability that a human have a mass of 100kg is non-0. So Principle 2 is false. Or, to think in Tooley’s terms, the Universal being-human is incompatible with the universal having-the-mass-of-an-electron. So it is not possible that a human have the mass of an electron.
    To your third point, your answer to my question of whether I’m stepping into inductive skepticism, I’m not sure I follow. You say that if I deny principle 2 I have to “explain why it’s reasonable to assign probability 1/6 to the proposition that the next role of the fair die will be 6.” Why must I do that? I mean, I could see what it would be nice to have a reason here, but I don’t see why I can’t find a counterexample to a proposed principle without offering something to fill its gap? That is, if it even leaves one a gap, I still don’t see that it does.
    To your third point, that the inscrutability reply of Plantinga and Trent is unsatisfactory, that’s for Plantinga or Trent to answer. I was giving it here as a brief summary of the necessary background to understand what Tooley is responding to. I was, in short, reporting, not arguing or defending.
    Finally, you say that the state of affairs that includes Armstrong makes it true “that Armstrong exists.” That may be your view, but that’s not Armstrong’s (unfortunately, all my books are in boxes in someone else’s office while I wait for mine to open up, so I can’t cite him here). I guess I don’t see much reason to posit states of affairs like Armstrong’s-existing when Armstrong himself, alone, the very guy, is a satisfactory truthmaker (that is the state of affairs you had in mind, right?).

    August 18, 2008 — 17:47
  • Mike Almeida

    No rightmaking properties that we know of are such that we are justified in believing both that an action of choosing not to prevent the Lisbon earthquake would have had those rightmaking properties, and that those properties are sufficiently serious to counterbalance the relevant wrongmaking properties.
    Suppose this claim entailed that there is no increment in evil E, no matter how small, that is ever counterbalanced by some good increment in good, G. Clearly, that would be a reductio, right? Let E be some minor evil.
    1. The evil E* produced by the Lisbon earthquake, horrendous as this event was, was nonetheless finite. Assumption
    I don’t think it can be reasonably claimed that the event was infinitely evil, even granting that it was about as evil as it gets.
    2. Organic unities is false. Assumption.
    I want to deny that anything like organic unities is true. I don’t take this to be controversial. I’ve never heard a convincing word in favor of this view.
    3. E*/E = N. Since the evil E* of the Lisbon earthquake is finite and we are abandoning organic unities, we can arrive the amount of evil E* incrementally. E* = (E x N). Another way to put this is to say that we could have (or, say, God could have) decreased the evil in the Lisbon incrementally). It could have been slightly less bad, and then slightly less bad again, and again, until it was not bad at all.
    4. Recall that we chose E as an increment in evil (choose whichever increment you’d like) such that, there is some good G that counterbalances E. I’m assuming there are some such E and G.
    5. If G counterbalances E, then (N x G) counterbalances (N x E).
    6. (N x G) counterbalances (N x E)
    But we found in (3) that E* = (N x E).
    7. (N x G) counterbalances E*. Q.E.D.
    Suppose we reject (7). Then, if we accept (5) and (6), we have to deny (4), viz., that, for some G and E, G counterbalances E.
    Of course, this is a rushed argument, but my point is simply to show that, even offhand (in ten minutes or so), we can generate real worries for claims like those described above.

    August 19, 2008 — 10:27
  • Andrew Moon

    Tim,
    “But then one wonders, isn’t the SD working in Catholics and Calvinists? If so, is it going haywire in one of these two groups? Or does the SD really say very little? Perhaps it is just the mechanism that gets us the belief that OOG exists, and from there we are on our own?”
    Perhaps something like this is going on. For those whose perceptual faculties are properly functioning in their appropriate environment (which have received the right “pumps”) they can come to know that various medium sized objects exist. (Even this requires much socializing and “pumping”; I can’t see that the object in front of me is a computer unless I’ve been properly influenced by the culture.) But we might still disagree about whether it is a sheep or a white rock that is in the distance. Perhaps this explains some of the difference between Calvinists and Catholics. Our faculties (reasoning + SD + whatever else) aren’t sufficiently designed to discern these truths.
    But I don’t think we should sit in despair from the inability to learn such truths. Some people can train their eyes to locate objects better (bird-watchers is an example), and perhaps we can do so in theology. Sometimes, some more experienced bird-watchers can help newbie bird-watchers along. I know the analogy with perception isn’t exact, but I think that it goes some way towards explaining how there could be disagreement and how there could still be progress in learning truths.

    August 19, 2008 — 12:00
  • Trent Dougherty

    Christian, there’s nothing *like* a proper probability space here. It’s somewhat ingenious of Tooley to try–even if misguided– the Laplacian route, but the burden is on *him* to show the parallel, not on me to show that it isn’t.
    The probabilities involved in things like dice are more like von Misean long run relative frequencies.
    Actually, you’ve made a mistake that was a pet peeve of Kyburg’s: you seem to be confusing the probability of the “next” die landing heads with the probability of “a” die landing ace. The latter is what is principly the value 1/6. If we rolled dice indefinately the ratio of aces to total throws would *approach* 1:5 ever more closely. Now you might get from “a” to “the next” by a kind of calibration principle or minimal error priniple, but that’s a harder story to tell than you might think.
    At any rate, it’s up to Tooley to explain how he can do the same thing. His approch comes off as appealing to a prinicple of indifference which is very controversial. This is one more problem with his embedding his argument in a Carnapian system: logical probabilitiy is not the very guide of life…

    August 19, 2008 — 14:56
  • Christian Lee

    The a priori probability (sometimes called ‘intrinsic probability’ by T & P) of a human having the mass of an electron should be 0, since it is impossible that a human have the mass of an electron.
    If I thought they were logically incompatible I would agree. But they seem compatible to me, though maybe not with the natural laws. But then one cannot get the contradiction. The conditional proibability of a human’s having the mass of an electron given the laws may very well be 0, I would grant that.
    I mean, I could see what it would be nice to have a reason here, but I don’t see why I can’t find a counterexample to a proposed principle without offering something to fill its gap?
    Sure, I agree with that. But I don’t think you have a counterexample, yet. But the point is simply that certain pribability assignments are true and we a principle to explain why and Michael’s does. It would be good to find out whether one can maintain their intuitive ascriptions of probability while denying the principle. So let me just put the argument in a strong form: One cannot give an adequate and principled explanation why the die roll should get a 1/6 without accepting some principle which is sufficent to get Tooley’s conclusion (I’m not confident in this, though).
    I guess I don’t see much reason to posit states of affairs like Armstrong’s-existing when Armstrong himself, alone, the very guy, is a satisfactory truthmaker (that is the state of affairs you had in mind, right?).
    To have a unified account, that’s one reason. And Armstrong the man doesn’t have the right structure to be a truthmaker. Propositions have properties as elements, in this case, the property of existing. Thus, we need a corresponding property in the world, in this case, it too will be existence.

    August 19, 2008 — 15:00
  • Christian Lee

    Hi Trent,
    I’m not sure what a “proper proabability space” is, and I don’t know what “von Misean long run relative frequencies” are or Kyburg’s view, or what a “calibration principle or minimal error priniple” are. Do you have an argument? You said his view is misguided, and maybe others agree, but why?
    you seem to be confusing the probability of the “next” die landing heads with the probability of “a” die landing ace.
    I don’t follow this. Let ‘Fred’ name a fair die. The idea is that the probability that on the next throw Fred will turn up six, given that Fred is thrown = 1/6. Do you deny that?
    His appraoch comes off as appealing to a prinicple of indifference which is very controversial.
    Yes, and as I mentioned above, I think this is the place to worry. But I think the principle is true.

    August 19, 2008 — 15:10
  • Tim Pawl

    Mike,
    I don’t follow, at least not yet. I follow the argument; it is crystal clear. What I don’t follow is its application to (15), the premise you quote at the beginning of your post. I take (15) to say something like this: “For all the rightmaking properties we know of, none of them is such that we are justified in believing that they justify God’s not acting to stop the Lisbon earthquake. Your argument doesn’t seem to falsify that. Sure, you’ve shown that there is some counterbalancing good (your GxN) to the Lisbon earthquake. But I think Tooley grants that. I don’t have the text with me now, but doesn’t he say that the probability that there is a rightmaking property of degree N is the same as the probability that there is a wrongmaking property of degree N (doesn’t he argue for this via principle 2? If not, doesn’t it follow from Principle 2 anyway?)
    I think that the premise that Tooley has in mind has to be falsified like this: “No, there is a rightmaking property, it is this one: _____.” I think he is looking for a specific rightmaking property.
    Andrew, I wonder if the SD is something that can be trained (pumped) enough to decide whether Roman Catholicism of Calvinism (or neither!) is true. Rather, it seems to me that the SD does minimal work of convicting someone that there is something out there and then the rest is done in other ways. Maybe it does a bit more, but I would be surprised if the SD decided between, for instance, limited atonement and its denial.

    August 19, 2008 — 16:40
  • Tim Pawl

    Christian,
    Here is one reason why I think it is impossible that a human have the mass of an electron:
    A. Necessarily, if something is a human, then it is a carbon-based life form.
    B. Necessarily, carbon-based life forms are composed of electrons, protons, and neutrons (and other stuff, but let’s just stick with those).
    C. Necessarily, if something is composed of more than one X, Y, and Z, where Xs, Ys, and Zs each have mass, then it cannot have the mass of only one X.
    D. Thus, necessarily a human cannot have the mass of only one electron.
    Also, the human/mass example isn’t the only on in the neighborhood. I have the property being-a-human. Being-a-human is in a family with being-an-alligator (call the family “the living things”). So, by principle 2, it is just as probable that I be a human as it is that I be an alligator. Plantinga could have used this argument in the Nature of Necessity to prove that, not only is it possible that I be an alligator, it is just as probable that I be an alligator as it is that I be a human or a fly, amoeba, daffodil, slug, sloth, mule, or apple tree. But it isn’t possible that I be any of those things (some might think I could be an alligator, but who thinks I could be an amoeba, and that it is equally likely that I be a human and an amoeba?).
    Consider that family (Male, Female). Is it possible that I be a female? well, one thing seems clear to me, whether or not it is possible should not be dictated by a principle proposed in order to justify the principle of indifference! It isn’t that principle’s job to dictate metaphysical possibilities. But that’s precisely what it does do.
    Consider a family that includes me and my grandfather. By principle 1, it should be true that any state description that includes him is as likely as a state description that includes me in the place of him. So the state description where we describe the world accurately but swap the two of us is just as likely as the actual state description. But, if origin essentialism is true, I couldn’t be his grandfather. So principle 1 rules out origin essentialism. But, again, these principles meant to do work in probability theory shouldn’t have such a far reach.
    Now you say:
    “So let me just put the argument in a strong form: One cannot give an adequate and principled explanation why the die roll should get a 1/6 without accepting some principle which is sufficent to get Tooley’s conclusion (I’m not confident in this, though).”
    But that’s not an argument at all (and so not an argument in a strong form). That’s an assertion. My question in the post is, why is that assertion true?
    I’ll grant you that one has a more unified account of truthmaking if the only truthmakers are states of affairs. But, like I said in the post, that separates his view from Armstrong’s. And that’s fine to do. But I think his principle invoking truthmakers would be better if he didn’t require states of affairs for all truthmakers. There’s nothing to be gained by excluding many truthmaker theorists by requiring that all truths have SOAs as trutmakers. As for what structure something needs to be a truthmaker and whether the proposition “Armstrong is” requires the universal “existing”, I disagree. But I think arguing these points is far afield from the post here. I’m not saying that we can’t do it. But I am saying that we needn’t do it.
    Thanks,
    Tim

    August 19, 2008 — 17:10
  • Mike Almeida

    Hmm, doesn’t (15) say this?
    No rightmaking properties that we know of are such that we are justified in believing both that an action of choosing not to prevent the Lisbon earthquake would have had those rightmaking properties, and that those properties are sufficiently serious to counterbalance the relevant wrongmaking properties.
    And my argument shows that (well, suggests that) it would not be very difficult to find some rightmaking properties that we know of that are serious enough to counterbalance the wrongmaking properties. That’s the hard part. All we need to determine is whether failing to prevent the earthquake might have had those properties. I take it that that’s the easier part. Certainly the action might have had those causal consequences.
    I’m playing a little loose here, I concede, since Tooley does not say in (15) that permitting the evil has to be necessary to getting those consequences. Instead, he says we need to show that permitting the evil does have the right sorts of consequences.

    August 19, 2008 — 19:50
  • Andrew Moon

    Tim,
    Actually, now that I think about it, you’re probably right; the theology stuff (Calvinism vs. Catholicism) seems to use more logical reasoning based on truths which we get from divine revelation, although I think SD will do more than just get us to God’s existence. Maybe it will reveal God’s attributes or even attitudes. Sometimes, I’ve felt God’s disapproval or love or whatever. Actually, in Plantinga’s early articles, he said that the real basic beliefs are beliefs such as “God is to be thanked” or “God disapproves of my doing X”, and we infer from these beliefs the more austere belief that God exists. Furthermore, I think that the SD can be trained and further honed, as the effects of sin wear off in the process of sanctification.

    August 20, 2008 — 9:25
  • Andrew Moon

    “First, Tooley argues that in cases where there are reliable, general belief-forming mechanisms, such as perception, memory, and deductive reasoning, we find massive intersubjective agreement. In addition, the intersubjective agreement reached in such cases isn’t dependent on one’s societal background or indoctrination and is universal across human societies.”
    Tooley’s remarks here (which Tim is summarizing) seem to be overstated. Plantinga has some interesting stuff on how perception is dependent on cultural background. “A Maasai tribesman can’t see that something is a 1986 Chevrolet… In order to be able to form the judgment that I see a dolphin, I must know such things as Something that looks like THAT is a dolphin; so do I really form the belief in question in a basic way?…” Speaking of our basic perceptual beliefs about trees, Plantinga writes, “Perhaps as a child you begin by seeing something that looks like that–that looks the way a tree ordinarily looks. Your mother (adopting the tone of feigned excitement mothers use) exclaims, “Tree!! That’s a tree!!” Perhaps you then associate with the word ‘tree’ the concept something that looks like THAT.“” (WPF 100)
    We can go further and note that some kids grow up locked in attics; their ability to form perceptual beliefs will be very much stunted. So even our perceptual beliefs seem to be heavily influenced by “societal indoctrination”, although I’m not sure if this could be properly called “indoctrination”. (But then why call religious education indoctrination?)
    The example of the child in the attic shows that sometimes, the development of our faculties are stunted when there isn’t the proper environment for them to develop in, an environment in which children are not around a community. Perhaps this may be the case for the sensus divinitatus in certain cultures like Soviet Russia or China where belief in God was or is suppressed. (Even in those countries, however, belief in God was far from squelched. Sorry for my lack of references.) Just as a community of language-users and perceivers (with properly functioning perceptual faculties) is necessary for a person to properly develop their perceptual faculties, perhaps a community of language-users and theists (with properly functioning sensus divinitatuses) at least plays an important role in the proper development of the sensus divinitatus. Anyway, I can’t see any significant difference between SDs and other faculties; both depend heavily for proper development and maturation on a community/culture/society.
    (A better comparison might be the development of our consciences or the faculties responsible for our moral intuitions.)

    August 20, 2008 — 12:03
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    I’m curious about the claim that we’d expect to have SD on the assumption that theism is true. I think that we’ve addressed this before, but I think this is not something we can expect. The evidence we seem to have on hand suggests that if God exists God is quite willing to leave us in hopeless positions (maybe just in the here and now, but that’s what we’re dealing with, the claim that we have SD). You can evade the argument from evil by saying that God owes us nothing, that we’re tools to be disposed of as God sees fit, that there’s some secret reason why genocide is tolerable, etc…, but I can’t see that you can _then_ turn around and say there’s good reason to believe that if God exists God would give us a cognitive connection between us and God.

    August 20, 2008 — 13:50
  • Tim Pawl

    Mike,
    You write: “my argument shows that (well, suggests that) it would not be very difficult to find some rightmaking properties that we know of that are serious enough to counterbalance the wrongmaking properties.”
    Is the rightmaking property you refer to here (G x N)? But what rightmaking property does (G x N) name? I mean, on your account, what is the rightmaking property that outweighs the Lisbon earthquake? If you say “how the heck should I know?” then aren’t you granting (15)?
    And another question: why think “Suppose this claim [15] entailed that there is no increment in evil E, no matter how small, that is ever counterbalanced by some good increment in good, G. Clearly, that would be a reductio, right?” Why think that [15] entails that there is no increment in evil…?

    August 20, 2008 — 15:26
  • Andrew Moon

    Clayton (and others),
    It may be good to get clearer on what Plantinga thinks the SD is.
    “the basic idea, I think, is that there is a kind of faculty or a cognitive mechanism, what Calvin calls a sensus divinitatis or sense of divinity, which in a wide variety of circumstances produces in us beliefs about God.” (WCB 172)
    He later goes on to say,
    “The sensus divinitatis is a disposition or set of dispositions to form theistic beliefs in various circumstances, in response to the sorts of conditions or stimuli that trigger the working of this sense of divinity.” (WCB 173) He goes on to specify what these various circumstnaces might be (p. 174). Actually, the section (170-175) I found quite helpful.
    Plantinga’s argument that if God exists, it is like that theistic belief is warranted is found on WCB 188-190. Interestingly, the argument there never appeals specifically to an SD.
    Okay, too much blogging for today. I’ve gotta run, but I hope those references are helpful.

    August 20, 2008 — 16:03
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    Andrew,
    I’ve just read the passages on 188-90 (I love Google Books!), but I didn’t find anything particularly helpful there. The argument that our beliefs would be warranted assumes that God would want them to be warranted if God exists. This assumes various things about God’s character I think we cannot know either because God doesn’t exist or because if God exists we can make few assumptions about God’s intentions. Look, it’s part of our shared experience that people are routinely left to rot. So, if you’re going to make sense of God’s love in w a way consistent with what we have experienced, that love is going to look very weird. It’s the kind of love that God could have for an infant left in a burning building or someone killed by a machete wielding mob or… You get the idea. Given how inscrutable God’s motives are, I can’t see how P gets away with the assumption that God would intend to create even some of us with an ability to form warranted beliefs about God’s existence. It sure seems that when us atheists make claims about what God would intend if God were to exist, we’re expected to say more than just hand wavy things about God’s love for us or how we’re made in God’s image.

    August 20, 2008 — 16:44
  • Mike Almeida

    Is the rightmaking property you refer to here (G x N)? But what rightmaking property does (G x N) name? I mean, on your account, what is the rightmaking property that outweighs the Lisbon earthquake?
    There are, commonsensically, all sorts of properties that might make for the rightness of an action. I was appealing to increments in value, as one general way of making an action right. So, pick anything property P such that, P is is valuable (P subvenes goodness) and P comes in increments. We could skip the indirect route through value and talk of properties that subvene rightness. My guess is that they’re the same properties. So maybe P is some form of happiness or love or justice or benevolence or charity or generosity. My claim is that if some increment in, say, happiness outweighs some decrement in (again, say) suffering endured at Lisbon, then there is another increment in happiness (much larger, now) that outweighs the large decrement in total suffering endured at Lisbon. I was urging that we take the disaster one decrement in evil at a time and, one by one, outweigh these decrements with increments in positive value. More exactly, I was suggesting that this seems, in principle, not impossible.

    August 20, 2008 — 17:38
  • Christian Lee

    Hi Tim,
    I’m unsure about your (A) and (B). It’s not clear to me whether humans are essentially carbon based, for example. I also don’t know whether the essentiality of origins is true. But I see your worry now. Presumably there are properties that are metaphysically connected in such a way that it’s impossible for something to have one without the other. So the probablility of certain conjunctions should turn out to be 0 even though there conjunctions each have a positive a priori probability.
    I don’t know the answer. This worry seems to me to be in the same boat with Plantinga’s claim that God exists will get a 1 or a 0, and that poses a problem for Tooley’s argument too. I’ll run this problem by him. I suspect a potential move is to move to epistemic possibilities, but I’ll leave it at that.
    But that’s not an argument at all (and so not an argument in a strong form). That’s an assertion. My question in the post is, why is that assertion true?
    I meant it to be. But here it is with premises and a conclusion anyway.
    P1: The probability that a fair die will land six is 1/6.
    P2: If P1, then some version of a principle of indifference is true.
    P3: If P2, then Tooley’s premises 15 and 16 are sound.
    C: Thus, Tooley’s premises 15 and 16 are sound.
    Let’s set the truthmaker issue aside, agreed.
    Andrew,
    I posted (tried to anyway) a reply to you a few days ago, but it never posted. But the argument you suggested is the one I hand in mind. The idea is that if some faculty is a basic source of evidence then it will “likely” have certain features, X.
    What does X pick out? Stuff I’ve mentioned, e.g. there will be interpersonal agreement on its outputs, its outputs will be insensitive to cultural influences, its neural basis can be studied empirically, it’s outputs can be confirmed by other sensory sources. That kind of thing.

    August 20, 2008 — 20:47
  • Tim Pawl

    Mike,
    I see that your suggestion is, as you say, not impossible. And I understand what you are suggesting we can do. But my wonder here was whether it applies to Tooley’s premise. But maybe there are two ways to read the premise. Here’s how I thought someone would have to respond to Tooley’s premise. One would have to say, for example: “the rightmaking property that outweighs the evil at Lisbon is love. Here is how an explanation of how love outweighs the wrongmaking properties…”
    But it seems you think there is another way to respond. It seems to me (correct me here if I’m still not following) that you think one could respond this way: “Tooley, you claim that I don’t know of a single rightmaking property that could outweigh the wrongs at Lisbon. But I know of many. In fact, very many (all?) rightmaking properties that I know of that come in degrees are rightmaking properties that, at a high enough degree [G x N], would outweigh the wrongs at Lisbon. I don’t need to go further and tell you which one actually does the work here. I don’t need to, for instance, name autonomy as the rightmaking property that stayed God’s hand at Lisbon.”
    Am I getting close now? Do you see what sort of reply I thought was necessary for the premise? Am I right about what sort of reply you think is sufficient?
    Christian,
    For some reason, sometimes I have to accept your comments and other times I don’t. Do you sometimes post signed in, and other times not?
    I don’t think I would word my worry the way you word it, but I think you are really close. I’d say that there are cases where, in a family of genuine universals, F1-Fn, some are compatible with a different universal, G, and others aren’t. So, in the family of mass universals, some are compatible with being human and others aren’t. But I could use even weaker premises, since (I think) Tooley wants Principle 2 to be a necessary truth, and not just a contingent truth. So, as long as it is possible that there be a family of universals, F1-Fn, some of which are incompatible with another universal, G, and others not compatible with G, then it is false that Principle 2 is necessary.
    Furthermore, remember Tooley’s criterion for impossibility-something is impossible when one can deduce a formal contradiction from it (either by logical laws, name substitutions, or incompatibilities of universals). Now I ask: can we deduce a formal contradiction from the following: “there is a family of universals, F1-Fn some of which are incompatible with another universal, G, and others not compatible with G”? If we cannot deduce such a contradition, then we should be reticent to affirm “that it is impossible that there be a family of universals, F1-Fn some of which are incompatible with another universal, G, and others not compatible with G.” And if we are reticent to affirm that, and the truth of that is a necessary condition for Principle 2, then we should be reticent to affirm Principle 2.
    So now I’ve given what I think are counterexamples to principle 2, and an additional reason we should be reticent in affirming Principle 2.
    Best,
    Tim

    August 20, 2008 — 21:16
  • Christian Lee

    Hey Tim,
    I never sign in. Alas, I’m not sure what’s going on…
    Here’s a stab at a response to your objection: We need to restrict Principle 2 like this:
    Principle 2*: State descriptions and families of properties. Any two state descriptions that differ only by a permutation of intrinsic properties belonging to a family of intrinsic properties are equally likely.
    It’s not clear to me that any of your examples poses a problem for this principle. Being human or a descendent of S will be extrinsic. And perhaps this is what Tooley had in mind. And it won’t follow that principle of indifference is motivating a view of properties. Humeanism about recombination is doing the work. So we have independent motivation. What do you think?

    August 21, 2008 — 0:45
  • Tim Pawl

    Christian,
    I thought Tooley’s talk of sparse, genuine universals was meant to do the work you are doing here with ‘intrinsic’ properties. And I also think that being human is an intrinsic property. Now, there are many ways of defining intrinsic properties and maybe on some of them being human isn’t intrinsic. But I would think that it is intrinsic. What definition did you have in mind for ‘intrinsic?’
    Also, I think mass properties are intrinsic properties. And I’ve been thinking that another good counterexample is from mereology. Necessarily, humans are composed of more than one x. Consider the family of properties, composed-of-one-x, composed-of-two-xs… By principle 2, the prob that I am composed of one billion simples is the same as the propbability that I’m composed of one simple. But it is impossible that I be composed of one simple (only simples are composed of one simple, and I’m not a [physical] simple). Being composed of x simples is an intrinsic property as well.
    So, in short, I don’t think this restriction on Principle 2 helps.
    Best,
    Tim

    August 21, 2008 — 8:34
  • Mike Almeida

    I don’t need to go further and tell you which one actually does the work here. I don’t need to, for instance, name autonomy as the rightmaking property that stayed God’s hand at Lisbon.”
    Am I getting close now? Do you see what sort of reply I thought was necessary for the premise? Am I right about what sort of reply you think is sufficient?

    I think you’re right that Tooley is asking for both. I thought the tougher question was to name a property that could outweigh the evil. But we do need an answer to his second question: viz., which one does the work? My answer to that question is that there are many that might, in fact, be doing the work. I’m not sure which, but I could tell a story on which they do. This seems to me enough to answer his questions. So, yes, you’ve got the right idea.

    August 21, 2008 — 9:58
  • Andrew Moon

    Christian,
    Okay, it seems that when we fill in a value for X, it’s either something that the SD has or the SD’s not having it doesn’t against the SD being a belief forming faculty. For example, you mentioned insensitivity to cultural influences, but as I mentioned in the comment on August 20th, 12:03pm, much of our perception is heavily influenced by culture. And there have been neural studies on theistic belief production and religious experiences. Again, I’m away from my campus, but (a memory came back!) I recall reading an article on such studies in the ScientificAmerican from last October or so. (I’m sure that doesn’t help you very much. I could probably dig that up, however.)
    Or consider the other factor that the output of the faculty must be able to be confirmed by other sensory experiences. I think that the faculties responsible for our moral intuitions (responsible for the intuition that torturing kids is wrong) are genuine, reliable, belief-forming faculties, but I don’t mind that they can’t be confirmed by sensory experiences, and so I guess I’m not worried in the case of the SD. (Whether this one works also depends on how optimistic you are about natural theology arguments; my guess is that I am and you’re not.) And why does being able to be confirmed by another faculty matter anyway? So I don’t think your argument that humans don’t have an SD (or are likely to not have one) is unsuccessful.

    August 21, 2008 — 10:18
  • Andrew Moon

    Clayton,
    I’m not sure I understand the worry (although I think I feel it, if that makes sense). Suppose that God exists and is maximally good (is that the assumption you were talking about?). Then it is likely that God desires us to love and know him, to be aware of his presence. This point seems plausible to me.
    Next: “And if that is so, the natural thing to think is that he created us in such a way that we would come to hold such true beliefs as that there is such a person as God…” (WCB 188-189). That seems to follow from the previous point. Yeah?
    Next: “And if that is so, then the natural thing to think is that the cognitive processes that do produce belief in God are aimed by their designer at producing that belief” (189). Check? Then, on Plantinga’s account, the theistic beliefs that are present are likely to be warranted.
    Clayton’s worry: but why don’t I (Clayton) and many others form belief in God?? It seems that if God created all human beings to form true belief in him, then God’s intention has been frustrated for some reason or other.
    Andrew’s Answer: I’m not sure why you (and others) don’t believe. I don’t know you (and others) well enough, and I might not know even if I did. You may be taking your lack of belief in God to be evidence that, in fact, there is no loving God; you may be thinking of an argument from divine hiddenness or evil. These are powerful arguments, as Plantinga agrees.
    But it does seem to hold that if God does exist (and so there is some reason or unknown theodicy for various evils or some atheists’ lack of belief), then many of the theistic beliefs in the world that do exist are warranted. I can’t see anything wrong with that conditional conclusion. (Plantinga produces a second argument on the second half of 189, which I found to be stronger, but you seemed to be attacking the first one, so I stuck with that.)

    August 21, 2008 — 10:36
  • Christian Lee

    Andrew,
    …but as I mentioned in the comment on August 20th, 12:03pm, much of our perception is heavily influenced by culture.
    The kind of perception I have in mind isn’t. So, for example, it’s cross cultural that if people see an object coming towards their head, they try to avoid it. People from Zimbabwe, unless I am absolutely crazy, or no less likely to identify an elephant as bigger than an ant, than are Fresians. I’m talking about simple judgments about ordinary things and the claim is that, when the things in question are judged on the basis of vision, there is widespread personal agreement (even if there are some differences).
    And there have been neural studies on theistic belief production and religious experiences.
    Very, very skeptical. Are these studies positive, indicating that a part of the brain contains a special module for theistic belief production. Can we confirm this by scanning the brain of atheists like myself. I want the pudding!
    I think that the faculties responsible for our moral intuitions (responsible for the intuition that torturing kids is wrong) are genuine, reliable, belief-forming faculties, but I don’t mind that they can’t be confirmed by sensory experiences, and so I guess I’m not worried in the case of the SD.
    Yep, that’s a good case and the reason why I said that faculties that function as basic sources of evidence will “likely” have these features. Moral intuition, as you point out, seems to lack this particular feature.
    And why does being able to be confirmed by another faculty matter anyway?
    The idea is that certain faculties give us basic evidence. This is evidence that is the output of the faculty, it is a justified belief or a seeming with a certain kind of content. The existence of other sensory faculties that can confirm or disconfirm some belief, increases or decreases the probability of the belief when they are taken into account. When we check and find that our vision was correct, in enough cases, we come to believe it is reliable. Without any defeater, it’s outputs are justified. No such story holds with a sensus divinatus. We have no sensory evidence to support judgments of it’s reliability. That’s not to say that that alone would make it’s outputs (if there were some) unjustified, but it makes it relevantly different from other sensory faculties. The idea, then, is that basic sources of evidence are corroborated, but the SD isn’t.
    Let me turn the question: What kind of empirical evidence is such that, if you found that we had it, would make you believe there is no SD?
    Tim,
    I was thinking of ‘being a human’ as involving certain ancestral relations, capacities to reproduce with other kinds of things, perhaps the possession of a certain DNA, I don’t know. I don’t have a good non-circular account of intrinsicality, but I think having n parts is intrinsic. So, then, what of your counterexample?
    But it is impossible that I be composed of one simple.
    Well, if a maximally continuous view is right, then this isn’t. And if being a human is extrinsic, the principle doesn’t apply. But I don’t like the MAXCON view. And I’m uncertain about the correct view of ‘being a human’ and that’s enough to make me uncertain about Principle 2 since I agree that having so-and-so parts is intrinsic. So I’m accepting your conclusion, that we should be reticent about Principle 2 and any conclusion whose justification depends upon a derivation from it.
    But, importantly, (15) and (16) of Tooley’s argument does not depend upon either principle. We can simply appeal to the principle of indifference and get the same conclusion.
    I don’t have the book, and it’s been quite a while since I read it, but Tooley is no fan of synthetic necessary connections. I suspect he is going to argue that in the kinds of cases you have in mind a contradiction can be derived from the claim that there is, to take your example, a human composed of one-simple. So that conjunction will get a 0 probability after all. Now, can it be derived? I don’t know, maybe.

    August 21, 2008 — 11:59
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    Andrew wrote:
    Clayton,
    I’m not sure I understand the worry (although I think I feel it, if that makes sense). Suppose that God exists and is maximally good (is that the assumption you were talking about?). Then it is likely that God desires us to love and know him, to be aware of his presence. This point seems plausible to me.

    In some thread or other, Christian raised a worry about talk of SD. The worry had to do with the epistemic status of beliefs about cards or some such thing and I think you said that the difference between SD and C’s example was that on the hypothesis that theism is true, we’d expect to have warranted beliefs that theism is true. This wasn’t so for the card case.
    This move is a good first move, but I think it’s important to realize that observations about evil can do double duty here. If I’m going to run an argument from evil, I’ll say that evil counts as evidence against theism. You reply saying, perhaps, that God’s reasons are inscrutable, God’s love manifests in mysterious ways, etc… I then bracket my concerns about such moves and then ask this: how can you both say that God’s motives and reasons are inscrutable to us in response to the argument from evil while insisting that we know enough about what God’s motives are/would be to say that on the hypothesis that theism is true, God would not only love us but love us enough to give us warranted beliefs about God?
    I would have thought that to protect theism from disconfirmation in the face of countless instances of evil, you’d want to concede that we wouldn’t expect a loving God to extract infants from burning buildings, protect people from machete wielding mobs, hide us from sharks when our ships sink, etc… Why not take it one step further. We don’t have grounds for saying it’s likely that God would create us with what’s necessary for having warranted beliefs about God on the hypothesis that there is a God.
    I don’t see Plantinga address this worry and his explanation as to why we ought to expect we’d have warranted beliefs on the hypothesis that theism true struck me as superficial. If there’s no inconsistency in saying that God loves the babies he created in his image that died in a fire, there’s no inconsistency in saying that God loves us and created us in our image but we’re moral simpletons who cannot assess the likelihood of having warranted beliefs on the hypothesis that theism is true.

    August 21, 2008 — 14:10
  • Tim Pawl

    Mike,
    Good. I think that’s a good point, and I’m glad to see it now.
    Christian,
    We agree that one should be reticent in accepting Principle 2. And you agree that IF (origin essentialism is true, or being human is an intrinsic property, or that humans are essentially composite entities, or humans essentially have the sex they have), then Principle 2 is false. Of course, as you’ve said, you withhold assent from that antecedent.
    And you are right that (15) and (16) do not depend on Principle 2. But I should point out that two major arguments from Tooley’s reply to Plantinga rely on Principle 2. What I take myself to have shown is that Tooley’s responses that depend on Principle 2 didn’t work. But Tooley’s a really sharp guy; I’m sure he has something else to give in the place of those two arguments. However, it remains to be seen. You mention that the Principle of Indifference can do the work. If you want, and if you have time, maybe you could show how? I don’t disbelieve it, but I would like to see it.
    Best,
    Tim

    August 21, 2008 — 21:10
  • Christian Lee

    Here is (16)
    (16) For any action whatever, the logical probability that the total wrong-making properties of the action outweigh the total rightmaking properties–including ones of which we have no knowledge–given that the action has a wrongmaking property that we know of, and there are no rightmaking properties that are known to be counterbalancing, is greater than one half.
    According to one Principle of Indifference
    (PI) For any set of outcomes that are exhaustive and exclusive, O1, O2…On, where n numbers these outcomes, if one has no reason to think that one of these outcomes is more likely to obtain than another, then the probability that some particular outcome will obtain is 1/n.
    We then describe some action of allowing something bad, such that, there are no rightmaking or wrongmaking properties that outweigh it that we are aware of. We then consider two outcomes: there is in fact a rightmaking property that we are unaware of that outweighs it–or–there is not a rightmaking property that we are unaware of that outweighs it. Given that we have no reason to think that either of these outcomes is more likely, we should assign 1/2 to each of them, and hence, to the claim that there is a rightmaking property that we are unaware of that outweighs the bad. Next, we generalize to any action meeting this description. Next, we consider particular actions that meet this description and multiply their probabilities assuming they are independent. That gets us the conclusion that the probability that all of the evils for which we can see no outweighing rightmaking property and have some rightmaking property that ouweighs them that we are unaware of is extremely low.
    To keep the argument valid, we would have to replace Tooley’s logical probability with an epistemic probability. This would be the notion at work in (PI) as well. Anyway, there’s the argument without any assumptions about properties.

    August 22, 2008 — 9:52
  • Andrew Moon

    Don’t have a lot of time to blog today…
    Christian,
    I don’t think it matters much to Plantinga (or me) whether these are what you call “basic sources of evidence”, which is not an expression he uses. If theistic belief can have the sort of epistemic status that my belief that there is a computer in front of me (which is culturally influenced) has, then I’d say that theistic belief has much going for it. So to show that the SD or whatever produces theistic belief is not what you are calling “basic sources of evidence” shouldn’t really bother anyone.
    This is similar to the response Plantinga gives to Evan Fales in a recent PPR (Nov. 2007). Fales argued that theistic or Christian belief might not count as basic. Fales then introduces problems for EVERYBODY about what counts as a basic belief (doesn’t my belief that there’s a computer in front of me count?) Part of Plantinga’s response is to say that he doesn’t care whether it’s actually basic or not; that doesn’t count against its epistemic status, so long as its warranted/justified/whatever. It’s a nice article and hits on some of the stuff we’ve been discussing here. The Fales article (PPR 2004) is good too, and his critiques on Plantinga’s account of Warranted Christian Belief are also interesting and resemble what has been discussed here.
    When I get a chance, I’ll have to dig up that Scientific American (not sure if I threw it away), but you may have to remind me, if you’re interested. Also, btw, I learned in my phil. cog. sci. seminar last semester that there’s a LOT of disagreement on what counts as a module (Fodor-module? module as defined by massive modularity theorists? etc…) so I’m not sure what you mean when you express your skepticism that the SD is a module. But whether it counts as a module doesn’t matter much. The SD might be composed of a bunch of mechanisms spread throughout the brain, just as is the case with memory. I’m sure you know the brain’s not very simple, and the first thing you’ll hear from cognitive scientists is how very, very little we understand of its workings (not to say we haven’t learned a lot in the last century).
    On your last question about what would convince me that there was no SD, I don’t know. Maybe if few to no people had ever formed religious beliefs about the divine, or (more minimally) if it weren’t so common, I wouldn’t’ve ever been convinced that there was something like an SD.
    Clayton,
    Gotcha on the double duty point. It’s similar to how some (Draper maybe?) have pointed out that skeptical theists who say that we should think that it is inscrutable why some evils occur should not endorse the teleological or design arguments since they also presume knowledge of God’s purposes. I think that that point is worth developing, and I’m not sure what to say. (Whatever skeptical theists have said in response to Draper or whoever might apply here. I don’t know the literature too well. Maybe there’s a principled way to distinguish when a purpose of God is inscrutable or not. We do this for our human friends. Sometimes, I know very clearly my friend Bob’s purposes for doing X, but I might be completely at loss why he did Y. That’s just the beginning of a response; it’d probably have to be developed, as would your critique, which I think has something going for it.)
    However, on Plantinga’s second argument, (second half of p. 189), despite your criticism, it is hard for me see how it could be that if God (a maximally good being who wants us to know him) exists, then the processes by which most people do form theistic belief were not intended by him. Maybe your criticism works here, too; I’m not sure.
    crap, I used up too much time. gotta get working on papers!!!

    August 22, 2008 — 11:01
  • Christian Lee

    Just a few more things.
    If theistic belief can have the sort of epistemic status that my belief that there is a computer in front of me (which is culturally influenced) has, then I’d say that theistic belief has much going for it.
    It doesn’t. People don’t disagree widely as to whether they are seeing a computer. People do disagree widely about whether they are sensing a morally perfect person. These claims do not have the same status, not even close.
    So to show that the SD or whatever produces theistic belief is not what you are calling “basic sources of evidence” shouldn’t really bother anyone.
    No way. Whether it is a basic source is one of the most crucial questions that needs to be answered. For if it is not a basic source then we need an argument for theistic belief, and the sensing itself will be insufficient to warrant it. This is because a basic source is a source for basic beliefs (by defintition) and whether theistic belief is basic (as Plantinga and Alston argues it is) is asking whether it is justified and on what grounds.
    I’ll check out the Fales. He says alot of sensible things. And don’t worry about the Scientific American, I’ll find it, thanks for the reference.
    Maybe if few to no people had ever formed religious beliefs about the divine, or (more minimally) if it weren’t so common, I wouldn’t’ve ever been convinced that there was something like an SD.
    Okay, good. But look, most people form the belief “I have a Mom” and yet we wouldn’t suggest that there is Sensus-Momus, right? So widespread belief in P is clearly insufficient for positing a special sensory faculty to produce P-like beliefs. Perhaps instead we could argue that people report that they sense God, and it is these kind of reports–reports of sensings–which justify positing a special sensory faculty. But if this is the idea, then it is problematic. For people do not really report this, they report feeling something intangible or other and they infer it is caused by God. People just don’t make the distinctions. And we need an argument for the causal claim, the sensing itself is no argument. And even for those holdouts, those who say “No, No, I really just sense God Himself” we need a reason to think that they are not simply grasping God through some other sensory source (intuition) while they are just feeling a certain way while doing so. What this means is that we need a story of the qualitative content of the deliverances of this sense that make it unique. I bet a billion dollars there is no plausible story such that lots of people have an experience with exactly so-and-so content, which would justify positing an SD that delivers it.

    August 22, 2008 — 12:20
  • Andrew Moon

    Christian,
    On the first point, when I gave Plantinga’s examples of culturally influenced perception (like the perceptual belief that there is a computer in front of me), you said that those weren’t the sorts of perception you had in mind and that they don’t count as basic sources of evidence. Fine, suppose that is so. But such perceptual beliefs have much going for them; I don’t know what epistemic value they wouldn’t have. And this is so even if they’re culturally influenced and not basic sources of evidence (as you understand “basic sources of evidence”). So my point is that the fact that they’re culturally influenced or the fact that they’re not what you call “basic sources of evidence” or whatever doesn’t matter for their epistemic status. So if theistic belief is not a basic source of evidence (in your sense) or if it is culturally influenced doesn’t count against it. It seemed to me that you were saying that those things did count against it. That was my point. (Btw, contrary to what you say, note that most epistemologists would count my belief that there is a computer in front of me to be a basic belief.)
    But the Fales/Plantinga exchange is nice because it brings out the difficulties in defining a “basic belief”, and in Plantinga’s response, he makes clear what he takes a basic belief to be and why he thinks Christian (and theistic) belief can have it.
    I couldn’t follow where you were going in your last paragraph. I wasn’t trying to give an argument that there is an SD (I was giving a psychological fact about myself in answering your question). Were you trying to argue that there is no SD? (You may want to check out Plantinga’s definition of SD that I quoted above.)

    August 23, 2008 — 10:35
  • Andrew Moon

    Clayton,
    I thought of your suggestion, and I think I have a response.
    Suppose Fred allows something hurtful to me to happen that he could’ve stopped. Yet, a third party that is infallibly honest and truthful tells me that Fred had a really good, morally justifiable reason for allowing what he did. Actually, the third party tells me that Fred only does morally right things and is the sort of being that does good things for people with good intention. Suppose I believe the third party because, as stipulated, the third party is infallibly honest and truthful. Suppose I later receive something very good that is very helpful in my life, and it could’ve only come from Fred. I think it is quite rational for me to think that Fred gave me the gift with a good motive in mind, and that he intended for me to have it.
    Same for God. If we suppose that God exists (and is maximally perfect and omniscient, etc.), it is likely that there is a good, morally justifiable reason (which we do not know) for many evils and that the processes by which humans form belief in God was intended by God (with good intention). The skeptical theists aren’t skeptical about God’s attributes, general intentions, and desires. They’re just skeptical about what those reasons are, not about whether they’re good reasons.
    Okay, suppose all that, and suppose that God is the ultimate creator/designer of human beings. We also find that many human beings across cultures have tendencies to form beliefs about God or the divine or something beyond or whatever. It’s hard for me to see that that could’ve not been intended by God (if we grant the above suppositions). It’s just like if we grant that Fred had good reasons for the seemingly harmful acts, and if we grant that Fred is a good person who likes to help people, and the gift I receive could’ve only come from Fred. Then we should think that the good thing that is given to me is from Fred is for a good reason.
    (I know the analogy’s not perfect. The point is that even though we don’t know God’s reasons for allowing some bad, if we stipulate that God is good and wants good things for us, then it is plausible that the good things that do seem to come from God are really from God.)
    Now you say,
    “how can you both say that God’s motives and reasons are inscrutable to us in response to the argument from evil while insisting that we know enough about what God’s motives are/would be to say that on the hypothesis that theism is true, God would not only love us but love us enough to give us warranted beliefs about God?”
    But I don’t need to say that it is likely that God would love us enough to give us warranted beliefs in God. I admit that that’s a big thing to suppose. But, given that humanity does find themselves believing in God (or a higher power or the divine or whatever) and given that God is loving and wants good things for us (and the bad things that happen to us are for good reason) and given that belief in God is a good thing, it seems plausible that the theistic beliefs that are formed are, for the most part, intended by him. So I think we should distinguish between:
    1) If God exists then it is likely that God would create creatures with faculties/dispositions to form belief in him.
    2) If God exists and created/designed creatures, then it is likely that these creatures who do, in fact, form belief in God by way of various faculties/dispositions, were intended by God to form this belief in him.
    Like you, I think the skeptical theist should doubt (1), but I don’t see why he should doubt (2). And it is (2) that Plantinga’s defending, not (1). Hope this progresses things.

    August 23, 2008 — 11:58
  • Mike Almeida

    (1) If God exists then it is likely that God would create creatures with faculties/dispositions to form belief in him.
    (2) If God exists and created/designed creatures, then it is likely that these creatures who do, in fact, form belief in God by way of various faculties/dispositions, were intended by God to form this belief in him.

    Andrew,
    Where does Plantinga say that it is (2) that he is defending? (2) is a pretty weak claim, and I can’t offhand find a place in WCB where he says he’s aiming to defend something like (2). But looking through casually, you can find in WCB where he says somethign like (1). See 188-189 for instance. If you had to sum up what he says there, it would be closer to (1) than (2).

    August 23, 2008 — 19:59
  • Andrew Moon

    Mike,
    You’re right that Plantinga does assert (1) in his first argument (so I think I mispoke in my last comment), but it seems to me that all he really needs is (2) for his more important conclusion: If theism is true, then it is likely that theistic belief (the theistic beliefs that do in fact exist) is warranted. So (yikes!) I think that I may disagree w/Plantinga on (1) for the reasons that Clayton gives.
    I think that Plantinga’s stronger argument is the second one (second half of p. 189) where he points out the unlikeliness of God’s existing and the belief forming faculties/dispositions responsible for theistic belief not being intended to produce such belief by God. And that is what is supported by (2).

    August 24, 2008 — 10:19