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…


July 30, 2008 — 12:59

Author: Andrew Cullison  Category: Uncategorized  Comments: Off

I just launched a social bookmarking/content promotion site for philosophers. I’m calling it Sympoze.
We already have quite a few users signed up who are testing out the site. Everything seems to be working well. If you’re philosophy Ph.D. or a graduate student in philosophy email me, and I’ll set you up with an account.
If you’re not familiar with social-bookmarking/content promotion, it’s a great way for a group of people to collectively submit, organize, and rank online content. It then becomes a great way to find high quality online content. (Digg and Reddit are good examples).
A Digg-like site where user accounts are limited to philosophers gives everyone a great way to find (and collectively promote) great philosophy content online.
Note that everyone can view the submitted content and the rankings. The only features that are restricted to philosophers and require user accounts are submitting stories, voting, and the other social network features.

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

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

This is another post about the first thirty pages of Chapter 1 for our Knowledge of God reading group. I hope Wednesday isn’t too early to start chiming in with posts. I’m going to focus on that item (iii) that Andrew Moon mentioned in his first post.

In chapter one of Knowledge of God, Alvin Plantinga argues that naturalism cannot account for proper function. According to Plantinga, proper function requires intelligent design.

The Proper Function Argument Against Naturalism

  1. If naturalism is true, then there is no proper function (with respect to human beings).
  2. There is proper function (with respect to human beings).
  3. Therefore, naturalism is not true.
    (Note: I’m oversimplifying this. I’m translating all of Plantinga’s talk about naturalism can’t accomodate proper function” to “there is no proper function” – this oversimplification has no bearing on the puzzle I want to raise.)

I’m interested in the assumption that motivates (1). The thesis is roughly:

Proper Function Requires Design Thesis

(P) If S functions properly, then S has an intelligent designer.

(P) is incompatible with what seems to be perfectly acceptable talk about God. It seems to make sense to talk about God functioning properly – especially if we’re working with the concept proper function that we all have and use in ordinary life (p. 23).

If God exists, then God functions properly. If God functions properly, then (P) is false – because presumably God does not have a designer. 

I think the main problem for the argument I have given will be whether or not we can sensibly talk about God functioning properly.&title=< $MTEntryTitle$>‘,’resizable,location,menubar,toolbar,scrollbars,status’));”>


James Beebe – Young Philosophers Lecture Series
March 30, 2008 — 22:05

Author: Andrew Cullison  Category: Existence of God News  Comments: 1

James Beebe (Prosblogion contributor) recently delivered the first set of lectures in the Young Philosophers Lecture Series at SUNY Fredonia.
His introductory level talk should be of interest to Prosblogion readers. It was on The Fine-Tuning Argument for God’s Existence.
Also, we posted the Fall 2008 Call for Papers (deadline: August 15th)

Young Philosophers Lecture Series
December 13, 2007 — 16:28

Author: Andrew Cullison  Category: News  Comments: Off

This will be of interest to Young Philosophers of Religion.

I just secured some funding to start a Young Philosophers Lecture and Podcast Series. The call for papers is up at

SUNY Fredonia’s philosophy department will bring two young philosophers to campus each semester. Each philosopher will give two talks. The first talk will be a research talk pitched to the philosophical community. The second talk will be a shorter talk that is accessible to a broad audience with no background in philosophy.


On Being Justified That You Will Be Justified
December 7, 2007 — 7:48

Author: Andrew Cullison  Category: Religious Belief  Comments: 12

Here is an example of some reasoning that should be of interest to philosophers of religion. We don’t have a complete science of the brain yet, but look at what recent neuro-science has shown. Don’t the recent successes of neuro-science give us good reason to believe that there will one day be adequate evidence for the proposition that the brain is completely scientifically explainable. Shouldn’t we then now think that the brain is completely scientifically explainable?
I think many would find something like the above reasoning plausible. I have to admit I find it plausible, and there are a few other kinds of arguments out there in philosophy that make a similar kind of move.
But here is where I start to get worried. For these strategies to work, something like the following principle must be true.
(1) If S is justified in believing that at some future time S will be justified in believing P, then S is justified in believing P now.
However, this won’t do. I am justified in believing that, at some future time, I will be justified in believing that my dog is dead. After all, I’m pretty sure my dog isn’t immortal. That doesn’t mean I’m justified in believing that my dog is dead now. We might think there is a quick fix that can get around this.