Alvin Plantinga
Baker (Deane-Peter)
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

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    Few thinkers have had as much impact on contemporary philosophy as has Alvin Plantinga. The work of this quintessential analytic philosopher has in many respects set the tone for the debate in the fields of modal1 metaphysics and epistemology and he is arguably the most important philosopher of religion of our time. In this volume, a distinguished team of today's leading philosophers address the central aspects of Plantinga's philosophy - his views on natural theology; his responses to the problem of evil; his contributions to the field of modal2 metaphysics; the controversial evolutionary argument against naturalism; his model of epistemic warrant and his view of epistemic defeat; and his recent work on mind-body dualism. Also included is an appendix containing Plantinga's often referred to, but previously unpublished, lecture notes entitled 'Two Dozen (or so) Theistic Arguments', with a substantial preface to the appendix written by Plantinga specifically for this volume.

BOOK COMMENT:

Cambridge University Press (18 Jun 2007) - Hardcover



"Baker (Deane-Peter) - Alvin Plantinga, God's Philosopher"

Source: Baker (Deane-Peter) - Alvin Plantinga, Introduction


Author’s Introduction
  1. The dominance of logical empiricism's verification principle in the middle part of the twentieth century forced philosophy of religion almost entirely out of the philosophy curriculum, and, with a few notable exceptions, few philosophers willingly identified themselves as Christians. However, logical empiricism collapsed under the weight of its own principles, and in the spring of 1980 Time magazine reported that in a “quiet revolution in thought and arguments that hardly anyone could have foreseen only two decades ago, God is making a comeback. Most intriguingly, this is happening not among theologians or ordinary believers … but in the crisp, intellectual circles of academic philosophers, where the consensus had long banished the Almighty from fruitful discourse.”
  2. Alvin Plantinga, one of those who had played a role in the demise of the verification principle, was identified by Time as a central figure in this ‘quiet revolution’. In fact, the article went so far as to label him the “world's leading Protestant philosopher of God.” Being singled out in this way by arguably the world's foremost news magazine is made all the more remarkable by the fact that, at the time, Plantinga was a professor of philosophy at a small Calvinist college, whose most important work was yet to come.
  3. The intervening years since Time's report have seen Plantinga emerge as one of contemporary Western philosophy's leading thinkers of any stripe.



"Oppy (Graham) - Natural Theology"

Source: Baker (Deane-Peter) - Alvin Plantinga, Chapter 1


Author’s Introduction
  1. In this chapter, I provide a chronological survey of Plantinga's changing conceptions of the project of natural theology, and of the ways in which those conceptions of the project of natural theology interact with his major philosophical concerns. In his earliest works, Plantinga has a very clear and strict conception of the project of natural theology, and he argues very clearly (and correctly) that that project fails. In his middle works, he has a tolerably clear and slightly less strict conception of the project of natural theology, and he argues – in my view unsuccessfully – that this project succeeds. In his later works, he has a much less clear and less strict conception of the project of natural theology, and it is much harder to determine whether there is any merit in the claims that he makes for natural theology as thus conceived.
  2. GOD AND OTHER MINDS (1967): The central question that Plantinga seeks to answer in God and Other Minds is whether it is rational to believe that the God of the Judaeo-Christian tradition exists. At least prima facie, it seems that there are two ways of understanding this question. On the one hand, the question might be whether reason requires belief in the God of the Judaeo-Christian tradition; on the other hand, the question might be whether reason permits belief in that God.



"Gale (Richard) - Evil and Alvin Plantinga"

Source: Baker (Deane-Peter) - Alvin Plantinga, Chapter 2


Author’s Introduction
  1. Among Alvin Plantinga's many outstanding contributions is his career-long attempt to neutralize the challenge that evil presents for theism. This challenge takes both a logical and an evidential form. The former attempts to deduce an explicit contradiction from the existence of both God and evil, whereas the latter argues that the known evils of the world, if not rendering it improbable that God exists, at least lower the probability that he does. Plantinga meets the logical challenge with his famed free will defense and the evidential one based on the doctrine of theistic skepticism, according to which our epistemic limitations preclude our being able to determine whether these known evils are justified. Each of these responses will now be considered.
  2. The Free Will Defense: The free will defense (hereafter FWD) attempts to show how it is possible for God to coexist with moral evil – evil that results from the improper use of free will by finite beings – by describing a possible world in which God is morally justified or exonerated for creating beings who freely go wrong. In response to the charge that the FWD does not go far enough because it leaves natural evil – evil that does not result from the improper use of free will by finite beings – unaccounted for, Plantinga claims that it is possible that all of the apparent natural evils of the world result from the mischief freely wrought by very powerful but finite nonhuman persons, such as wayward angels.



"Divers (John) - The Modal Metaphysics of Alvin Plantinga"

Source: Baker (Deane-Peter) - Alvin Plantinga, Chapter 3


Author’s Introduction
  1. Metaphysics is the part of philosophy that is concerned with the extent and content of reality: with what there is and with the nature of what there is. Matters of modality1 are matters of possibilities, impossibilities and necessities: what can (could, might) be, what cannot (could not, must not) be and what cannot (could not, must not) be otherwise. The salient questions of the metaphysics of modality2, then, are these: whether there is a modal3 reality – whether there is a part of reality in which modal4 facts consist (or which makes modal5 propositions true); whether such a modal6 consists in irreducibly modal7 facts or in nonmodal8 facts; whether modal9 facts consist (partly) in the existence of objects or properties of a special kind and – if so – what the nature and extent of such things is.
  2. Perhaps these questions give a rather contemporary twist to the characterization of the metaphysics of modality10; perhaps our predecessors would not have articulated their concern with the nature of modality11 in quite this way. But that such a concern is identifiable at many important periods in the history of Western philosophy is not seriously in doubt. It is hardly arguable that Aristotle was a practitioner of modal12 metaphysics nor that, as a result of Aristotle's influence, such concerns figure prominently in medieval philosophy.



"Sosa (Ernest) - Natural Theology and Natural Atheology: Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism"

Source: Baker (Deane-Peter) - Alvin Plantinga, Chapter 4


Author’s Introduction
  1. Natural theology has always had to contend with the argument from evil. The evil around us seemingly supports a deductive argument for the conclusion that there is no God of the sort affirmed by theology. More recently, natural theology has faced new problems, or old problems with a new urgency. Darwin, for example, showed how evolutionary design rivals Divine design, endangering the important Argument from Design. Suppose certain phenomena admit two rival, independent explanations. Any such explanation no better than its rival is insufficiently supported thereby. Theology had proposed Divine design as an explanation of the order around us. Evolutionary theory offers now a rival explanation that purports to be at least as good while independent of Divine agency.
  2. Both of these attacks are “direct.” They both confront theology directly on its own ground, by countering its theses in one of two ways. One way is by direct refutation of a theological proposition: The evil we see leaves no rational room for an omnipotent, fully benevolent God. The other way attacks, rather, the cogency of theology's rational support: by arguing, for example, that Divine agency is no longer needed to explain the order of things.
  3. Although both of these attacks are direct, the first is more direct, since it clashes frontally with the theological proposition that there is a God. From the premise that there is evil, it concludes that there is no God. The second attack is not frontal.



"Kvanvig (Jonathan L.) - Two Approaches to Epistemic Defeat"

Source: Baker (Deane-Peter) - Alvin Plantinga, Chapter 5


Author’s Introduction
  1. The concept of epistemic defeat, or some surrogate for it, is essential for any fallibilistic epistemology. If knowledge requires infallibility, then the epistemic grounds of belief have to be strong enough that no further information could be made available to the cognizer to undermine these grounds of belief. When knowledge requires no such infallibility, however, grounds of belief can be undermined by further information, information that defeats the power of the original information to put one in a position to know that the claim in question is true. Even if some combinations of conditions for knowledge are sufficient for truth, if there is a nonpsychological condition for knowledge that is not sufficient for truth, that condition will need to appeal to some concept of defeat (or a surrogate of it).
  2. I mention here the notion of a surrogate for the concept of defeat only to ignore it in what follows, for the following reason. Reliabilists, such as Alvin Goldman, recognize that a belief can be produced by a reliable mechanism, without putting one in a position to know. For example, one may form a perceptual belief in circumstances that one has good reason to believe are deceptive. This further information defeats the confirming power of the perceptual experience. Since reliabilists wish to construe talk of reasons and confirmation in terms of reliable processes and methods, they cannot be satisfied simply to note that these reasons defeat the confirming power of one's perceptual experience.



"Beilby (James) - Plantinga's Model of Warranted Christian Belief"

Source: Baker (Deane-Peter) - Alvin Plantinga, Chapter 6


Author’s Introduction
  1. Warranted Christian Belief is undoubtedly Plantinga's magnum opus, not only because of its size – 508 pages with routine interludes of fine print – but also because it constitutes the culmination of a research project in which Plantinga has been actively engaged for nearly forty years. Even those diametrically opposed to his assertions will find much with which to be impressed. For instance, Paul Moser – someone who shares Plantinga's theistic beliefs, but whose epistemological convictions differ markedly – has commented that some of Plantinga's insights on sin and its cognitive consequences “are alone worth the price of admission.” And Richard Gale, who shares neither Plantinga's theism nor his epistemology, praises the “depth, rigor and brilliance” of Warranted Christian Belief (hereafter, WCB).
  2. WCB is unique in a number of respects. While Plantinga is undoubtedly a philosopher through and through, his book is clearly not written primarily for specialists in philosophy. While philosophers will find plenty of sophisticated philosophical arguments with which to satiate their appetite, many may be surprised at the overtly theological nature of much of this volume. Moreover, those who are unfamiliar with his thought may be taken aback by the unabashedly conservative disposition of his theology; he unapologetically accepts the inspiration of Scripture, the divine instigation of faith, the noetic effects of sin, and other theological concepts that many in academia have relegated to a bygone era.



"Clark (Kelly James) - Pluralism and Proper Function"

Source: Baker (Deane-Peter) - Alvin Plantinga, Chapter 7


Author’s Introduction
  1. Religious diversity, the fact of a wide variety of religious beliefs and traditions, raises the problem that apparently sincere and equally cognitively capable truth seekers reach widely divergent conclusions about the nature of ultimate, perhaps divine, reality. Religious exclusivists hold that their own religious beliefs are true and, therefore, that all competitor beliefs are false. Critics of exclusivism allege that it smacks of arrogance and intolerance and also seems to make moral and spiritual transformation a matter of luck. If you happen to have been born to a conservative, Christian family in the heart of America, you would have likely been a Christian; but, if you had been born in India, say, more than likely you would have been a Hindu (or in China, an atheist; or in Jordan, a Muslim; or in California, Mickey Mouse).
  2. Just how religious diversity is offered as a defeater for one's warrant for exclusive religious beliefs can be seen in John Hick's defense of religious pluralism, which holds that the multifarious religious beliefs are equally efficacious at moral and spiritual transformation. Hick claims that there is a variety of religious traditions each of which, so far as we can tell, is equally successful in the transformation of human lives. Although they differ in their characterizations both of the goal of human life and of the processes necessary for the attainment of such goals, each of the disparate processes seems nonetheless equally well suited for the goal of the transformation of human lives from self-centeredness to what he terms ‘Reality-centeredness’.



"Van Inwagen (Peter) - Plantinga’s Replacement Argument"

Source: Baker (Deane-Peter) - Alvin Plantinga, Chapter 8


Author’s Introduction

Alvin Plantinga has recently turned his attention to materialism. More precisely, he has turned his attention to the thesis that philosophers of mind call materialism. This thesis can be variously formulated. In this essay, I will take “materialism” to be the conjunction of the following two theses:
  1. Human persons – what human beings refer to when they use the first-person-singular pronoun – are substances. They are substances in the strict and philosophical sense: They persist through time, retaining their identities while changing various of their accidental properties; they are not grammatical fictions; they are not “modes of substance”; they are not logical constructs on shorter-lived things (they are not entia successiva); they are not abstract objects (they are not, for example, things analogous to computer programs); they are not events or processes.
  2. These substances, these human persons, are wholly material. They are (if current physics is to be believed) composed entirely of up-quarks, down-quarks, and electrons, so related by the electromagnetic and color forces as to compose matter in its solid, liquid, and gaseous phases. They are, in two words, living organisms – or, if not whole living organisms, then parts of living organisms (human brains, brains-plus-central-nervous-systems, brain stems, cerebral hemispheres, cerebral cortices – or perhaps even luz bones or tiny, almost indestructible material things unknown to physiology …). They have no immaterial part.


Van Inwagen’s (hereafter PVI) paper is a rebuttal of an argument in "Plantinga (Alvin) - Against Materialism". My comments below are brief reminders of the main points of Van Inwagen’s paper. See the paper itself (Link (Defunct)) for more detail.

Introduction
  1. PVI is a proponent of (and Plantinga – hereafter AP – an opponent of) Materialism in the Philosophy of Mind.
  2. PVI takes it that Materialism in this sense consists in the acceptance of two propositions:-
    • P1: Human Persons are1 substances.
    • P2: These substances are wholly material.
  3. Both2 PVI and AP accept P1.
  4. PVI accepts, but AP rejects, P2.
  5. The version of P2 under consideration – the version that PVI accepts – is that I am identical to my body.
  6. Plantinga considers the rejection of P2 of great human importance, while PVI considers its acceptance only of great philosophical importance – provided only that its rejection doesn’t undermine the acceptance of the Christian doctrine of Resurrection. PVI doesn’t address the issue of the alleged human importance of P2 in this paper.
Section 1
  1. PVI’s paper addresses Plantinga’s “Replacement Argument” from Section I of "Plantinga (Alvin) - Against Materialism". PVI summarises the argument – which comes in “micro” and “macro” versions, though PVI only directly addresses the “macro” version. “Macro” refers to the replacement of large body parts, “micro” to the replacement of cells.
  2. The argument alleges that “I” could be continually conscious (and therefore3 exist throughout) a procedure wherein the various parts of my body are serially and rapidly replaced.
  3. The difficult part of this (supposedly metaphysically possible) procedure assumes the (metaphysical possibility of the) idempotency of the cerebral hemispheres, and the metaphysical possibility of “transferring” the mental functions from one hemisphere to the other while the former is replaced (and then back again, when the other will be replaced).
  4. Both PVI and Pl agree that B (the body) does not survive the part-replacement process.
  5. Since (the argument goes) B does not survive, but I do (as there is a single conscious experience throughout the process (it is claimed)), then I am not identical to B.
  6. To be continued …

Section 2
  1. To be supplied …

Section 3
  1. To be supplied …

Section 4
  1. To be supplied …

Conclusion
  1. To be supplied …


COMMENT: Van Inwagen's website: published in "Baker (Deane-Peter) - Alvin Plantinga"; Link (Defunct); annotated hard-copy filed in "Various - Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 18 (T-V)".




In-Page Footnotes ("Van Inwagen (Peter) - Plantinga’s Replacement Argument")

Footnote 1:
  • “Are” - This little word will cause problems.
  • PVI rehearses what a substance is. I’m happy that human beings “are” substances – as PVI says, “they persist through time, retaining their identities while changing various of their accidental properties”. The issue has to do with the reference of “I”.
  • I agree that I am a person and that I am a substance. But the reference of “I” is to the human animal that I am. It is the human animal that is the substance. The fact that it is a person is a temporary matter – depending on just what the qualifications (Click here for Note) for being a person are.
  • PVI has it that “I” refers to my body, to which I am (said to be) identical. I can’t remember his views on whether the (human) body is always a person (the classic statement of PVI’s views is in "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Material Beings"). Some people, while admitting that neonates and those in a PVS, don’t strictly satisfy the criteria for personhood, retain the honorific title of “person” for them as they either have the potential to attain personhood in the normal course of events, or have been persons. I’m not sure of the metaphysical implications of this ethical usage.
  • Lynne Rudder Baker is entitled to say that Persons are substances – because she thinks they are ontologically separate from the human bodies that (temporarily) constitute them. But PVI does not accept this metaphysic of constitution in the form given by Baker.
  • See his "Van Inwagen (Peter) - I Look for the Resurrection of the Dead and the Life of the World to Come". If we are (identical to) human animals, then resurrection is not likely to be metaphysically possible unless (at least) metamorphosis without loss of identity is possible. So (maybe) PVI is motivated to support the “body criterion” of personal identity, because the persistence conditions of “bodies” (whatever they are) may not be as strict as those for organisms; an organism terminates at death.
Footnote 2:
  • Incidentally, both PVI and AP are Christians, and colleagues at the University of Notre Dame. While Notre Dame is a Catholic University, AP is a Protestant – the inventor of “Reformed Epistemology” – and so might PVI be, for all I know.
Footnote 3: The logic of this claim needs to be carefully considered. It (most likely) presupposes that “I” am a fundamentally psychological being, a claim denied by the animalists.



"Plantinga (Alvin) - Two Dozen (or so) Theistic Arguments"

Source: Baker (Deane-Peter) - Alvin Plantinga, Chapter 9


Author’s Introduction
  1. What follows are notes for a lecture on theistic arguments given in a summer seminar in philosophy of religion in Bellingham, Washington, in 1986. Although the last twenty years have seen a good bit of interesting work on theistic arguments (for example, on the fine-tuning arguments), the notes, while shortened a bit, are unrevised. My intention had always been to write a small book based on these arguments, with perhaps a chapter on each of the main kinds. Time has never permitted, however, and now the chances of my writing such a book are small and dwindling. Nevertheless, each, I think, deserves loving attention and development. I'm not sure they warrant publication in this undeveloped, nascent, merely germinal form, but Deane-Peter Baker thought some people might find them interesting; I hope others will be moved to work them out and develop them in detail.
  2. I've argued in Warranted Christian Belief and elsewhere that neither theistic nor full-blown Christian belief requires argument for justification or rationality or (if true) warrant. One can be justified and rational in accepting theistic belief, even if one doesn't accept theism on the basis of arguments and even if in fact there aren't any good theistic arguments. The same holds for Christian belief, which of course goes far beyond theism: One doesn't need arguments for justified and rational Christian belief.



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