Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Plantinga paper in Analysis

Just heard this afternoon that the paper I mentioned in the previous post will be published in Analysis, January 2012, which is great news. The paper is called "Naturalism, Evolution and True Belief". I will send copies out on request. Email me. It's better than my Religious Studies paper on Plantinga, I think.


Wen Scott said...


Paul Baird said...

I'd like a copy, please, and congrats.

Stephen Law said...

email me direct Paul.

Michael Young said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Young said...

(Sorry if this appears as a duplicate. Blogger gives me the impression that my last comment was not properly submitted.)

I look forward to receiving your article. From your hints here and elsewhere, I suspect that you plan to offer a how possibly story: how possibly naturalistic evolution might lead to reliable believing, given some plausible (and proper) view of what it is to have a belief generally. Even if such a how-possibly story were to fail, though, I don't think that would mean that Plantinga has the better of the argument. Where Plantinga's EAAN depends on the inconsistency of three propositions, it is an open question which of the three we ought to reject. The three propositions, of course, are: a) we reliably believe; b) naturalistic evolution (described in some way) is true; and c) naturalism is true. Even if we grant Plantinga that a through c are inconsistent / that they may not all consistently be affirmed, it seems to me that our last resort should be to reject c, and that we would do better to reject either a or b.

Incidentally, the strategy of offering a how possibly story of the sort I suspect you offer is really a rejection of b: it is a rejection of naturalistic evolution as imagined/described by Plantinga in the EAAN.

Michael Young said...

I've now breezed through your paper. It does not seem quite right to me to say that there are "conceptual constraints" on belief content given some particular behavior. That sort of claim seems to imply that some behavior is inconsistent with some belief content in general, but this just doesn't seem likely to me; for any particular behavior and any particular belief, I bet I could construct a story (in the spirit of wildly implausible hypotheticals) showing the two to go together.

However, this may not be more than a quibble about the particular phrase "conceptual constraint," which seems to me too strong for what you really mean, and maybe for all you really need. Apart from "conceptual constraints" on content, we clearly do ordinarily think that certain behaviors "go" with certain beliefs and not others--in fact, makes these beliefs likely under ceteris parabus conditions. I take it that the core of your challenge is to ask why we should give up this ordinary way of attributing beliefs? Plantinga seems committed to the strong claim that the ordinary way of attributing beliefs given some behavior is wrong. The burden is on him to justify that claim, and so far, it doesn't appear that he has done it.

Like I said though, this is based on a really really quick read. My apologies if I'm way off base.

Student said...

Hi Michael,

I think you're right about the argument only highlighting an inconsistency between a, b and c, but not which one should be rejected.

But if you reject a then you have a defeater for ALL your beliefs (including beliefs about naturalism), that is, you have a reason not to believe what you believe.

Since that seems like a bad move that means that if you are looking to preserve naturalism then you would have to give up evolution, but that's not a very attractive option either. Afterall, if naturalism is true then its difficult to see what other theory could possibly replace evolution.

Michael Young said...

Good stuff. On the point re rejecting evolution, it might be ( might'n't it?) that one is only rejecting evolution as described and holding out hope of a better theory to come, even if one doesn't actually have such a theory. The question is whether, in the absence of a good naturalistic theory for some given phenomenon, it is generally better to abandon naturalism or else to hold out hope that some naturalistic gap-filling theory will, eventually, be had. It is far from obvious to me that our default stance should be to abandon naturalism, and yet this seems to be plantinga's working supposition.