Baldwin on Basic Christian Belief (part 3)

by Luke Muehlhauser on April 20, 2010 in Alvin Plantinga,Guest Post

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This series is taking a look at an article by Erik Baldwin entitled “Could the Extended Aquinas/Calvin Model Defeat Basic Christian Belief?” In this article, Baldwin tries to highlight a major shortcoming of Plantinga’s account of properly basic Christian beliefs.

In part 1 and part 2, I gave a bare-bones outline of Plantinga’s epistemological theory. With this background material out of the way, I can now proceed to consider Baldwin’s argument. I will look at it in two stages. In this part, I will provide a complete sketch of the argument. In the next part, I will consider some objections to Baldwin’s argument and Baldwin’s responses to those objections.

The Argument in Brief

Baldwin’s argument is a rather complex beast. This will be obvious from a quick glance at the argument map provided at the end of this post. To make it easier to digest, I’ll divide it into three main parts.

The first part of the argument shows that there are multiple viable extensions (MVEs) of Plantinga’s standard A/C model. The second part of the argument shows that these MVEs give rise to a probabilistic defeater for creedal-specific basic beliefs. And the third part of the argument shows how this probabilistic defeater gives rise to a serious dilemma for the defender of properly basic Christian beliefs.

Let’s consider each of these parts in more depth.

Multiple Viable Extensions

As noted in part 2, Plantinga’s theory of warrant has both internal and external rationality components. Internally, the believer must have a consistent web of beliefs and must be open to evidence. This ensures the correct doxastic responses to experience. Externally, the four conditions of proper function must be met. If these internal and external conditions are met, then a belief can be warranted in a properly basic manner, i.e. without the need to gather evidence in its favor.

With this theory of warrant in mind, Plantinga proceeds to sketch two models that would, if true, allow for certain religious beliefs to be warranted in a properly basic way. These models are the Standard Aquinas/Calvin model, which covers nonspecific theism, and the Extended Aquinas/Calvin model, which covers Christian-specific doctrines.

For now, we can assume that the Standard A/C model is correct. But granting this, there is a problem with the extension of it to cover creedal specific beliefs, namely: several religious traditions can extend the model. This is something Plantinga himself acknowledges.

Baldwin suggests that extended models are open to four separate religious traditions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism (yes, even Hinduism). He does not provide detailed sketches of these models. Instead, he points to the philosophical literature within each tradition that could be used to construct these models.

That’s slightly disappointing, but Baldwin does take up the challenge and provide more a more detailed model of Islamic belief in another article. And even I, with my poor knowledge of Judaism, can imagine a Judaic version that would replicate the boxological models provided in part 2. I suspect that this model would pinpoint the importance of following the halakha (Jewish Law) in generating properly basic Judaic beliefs.

The Probabilistic Defeater

The second part of Baldwin’s argument follows from the first. It begins with the following realization: If there are multiple viable extensions of the standard A/C model, and if these extensions are mutually incompatible (as they are) then, at best, only one of them is internally and externally warranted in a properly basic manner.

This realization gives rise to what Baldwin calls the “probabilistic defeater” for basic Christian belief. The probabilistic defeater states that if x represents the number of mutually incompatible creedal-specific extensions of the A/C model, then the antecedent probability of a particular extension being true is 1/x. (“Antecedent probability” just means “probability of something before looking around in the world to find reasons for or against it.)

Now suppose you are religious believer, and you think you can hold your beliefs in a properly basic manner. But suppose further that you are aware of the probabilistic defeater. You would then know that, if x > 2, it is more likely than not that your beliefs are false.

Since Baldwin’s article gives four possible extensions of the A/C model, it follows that any particular extension has only a .25 probability of being correct.

This is the most contentious part of Baldwin’s argument and will be given a more detailed consideration in part 4 of this series.

The Dilemma

The final part of Baldwin’s argument is the sting in the tail. He suggests that the foregoing probabilistic defeater presents a serious dilemma for the religious believer who wants to have properly basic warranted creedal-specific beliefs.

Recall that warrant has an internal and external rationality component. Internally ,the believer must have a coherent web of belief; externally the four conditions of proper function must be met. The probabilistic defeater has clearly upset the internal rationality component: the believer now has reasons for doubting the truth of their particular extension of the A/C model.

The only way to overcome this doubt is to find evidence in favor of your particular extension. This would mean actually trying to go out and prove the truth of Christianity, Islam, Judaism or Hinduism. But the whole point of Plantinga’s epistemology is to avoid doing that.

Hence we have a dilemma. The believer can either (a) find evidence in favour their extension, in which case their beliefs may become warranted but not in a properly basic manner, or (b) fail to find evidence, in which case they are stuck with unwarranted beliefs.

Baldwin’s argument is mapped below. For those of you who are unfamiliar with argument-mapping of this nature, the key is as follows:

  • Every premise and conclusion is represented by a number in a circle (the full premises are given on the right-hand side of the image).
  • The arrow represents “implies that,” “it follows that,” “if…then,” or “which leads to the conclusion that.”
  • The plus symbol indicates that the premises must be considered jointly if they are to support the conclusion indicated by the arrow.
(click image to view full size so you can read the text)

(click image to view full size so you can read the text)

- John Danaher

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{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

Charles April 20, 2010 at 7:09 am

Huh. I can’t see any way out of this.

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nate April 20, 2010 at 8:05 am

If you take into account all the different mutually exclusive beliefs about God that could be considered basic, the probability is more like 0% than 25% because they are nearly infinite.

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Josh April 20, 2010 at 9:10 am

I’m not sure I buy it. I know that Plantinga has addressed this—I feel like he doesn’t care that the prior probability of any particular properly basic belief is low, so long as it’s at least possible that it’s properly basic.

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John D April 20, 2010 at 10:18 am

I feel like he doesn’t care that the prior probability of any particular properly basic belief is low, so long as it’s at least possible that it’s properly basic. 

The point here is not that his beliefs could still possibly be properly basic; sure they could. The point is that the probabilistic defeater would render them unwarranted (in the absence of positive evidence in their favour).

To put this another way, Plantinga’s whole philosophy is about the rationality of belief. He claims that beliefs can be rational even in the absence of positive evidence, provided they are warranted and properly basic.

Baldwin is arguing that when you become aware of the probabilistic defeater, you know your beliefs are likely to false. So they can only be rational if you adduce evidence to support them.

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anon April 20, 2010 at 12:33 pm

I like this sort of argument. When I’m in an atheistic or agnostic mood, this is the sort of argument that moves me.

I’m curious, though, about how far this line can be pushed. Suppose someone said something like this: OK. Look, you’re right. The A/C model says that we’ve got God detectors. Mine tells me a bunch of stuff like ‘God exists’ and ‘its the Christian God that exists’. An Islamic guy has one that tells him ‘God exists’ and ‘its the Islamic God that exists’. What these reflections show is that I’ve got a defeater for my specific Christian belief. But not for my belief in some God or other. The A/C model can be extended to other theists. People from a bunch of different religions have all got God detectors. The presence of disagreement undermines specific religious claims but not more general religious claims. So me and the Islamic guy both have God detectors, they agree about some stuff but not about others.

So belief in God is properly basic. But belief in specific religions requires that basic belief in God plus non basic sources of evidence.

And, of course, you can’t extend the A/C model to atheism. (Or at least I don’t see how). So the same problem doesn’t arise for more general theistic claims such as ‘Some God or other exists’.

What do you think?

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Reginald Selkirk April 20, 2010 at 12:41 pm

What do you think?

I think you’re grasping at straws.

When you take the Hindus and other polytheists into account, along with nontheistic religions like (some forms of) Buddhism, you can’t even agree on the number of gods.

And since these detectors are so unreliable, why do you feel justified in continuing to believe in them? Your belief in a reliable god-sense is just as unfounded as your original belief in God, so it makes no sense to use one as “evidence” for the other.

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lukeprog April 20, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Josh,

Has Plantinga published a reply already? I know he’s been conversing with Baldwin a fair bit…

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Josh April 20, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Luke,

AFAIK, he hasn’t published a specific reply, but this just doesn’t seem to me to be problem for RE. Maybe I’m missing something, but this seems to be an attack along the lines of the Great Pumpkin Objection, though not identical, and I think that Plantinga can deal with it in a similar way.

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Mark April 20, 2010 at 2:11 pm

The probabilistic principle seems like it needs some tweaking. Prima facie, it doesn’t seem like the number of extended A/C models should make the difference, but the number of actual adherents of the models. To use an analogy from Baldwin’s paper, if you roll a die and six people each report having seen a different face turn up, then absent any other evidence the credence each witness should assign to his own experience being veridical is 1/6. However, if five people report having seen the die turn up a 3 and one person reports seeing it turn up a 5, then it doesn’t seem like the 3-witnesses should only assign probability 1/2 that they were right (since there are two different reported “extended die models”).

However, since Christianity seems to have less adherents than Islam and Hinduism combined, I’m not sure this ultimately matters.

Maybe I’m missing something, but this seems to be an attack along the lines of the Great Pumpkin Objection, though not identical, and I think that Plantinga can deal with it in a similar way.

I don’t see how he could do that.

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John D April 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Anon,

Baldwin’s argument is only about the viability of the extended A/C model, not the standard A/C model. It leaves properly basic belief about God unchallenged.

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exapologist April 20, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Baldwin and (Michael) Thune offer a defeater for properly basic theistic belief in “The Epistemological Limits of Experience-Based Exclusive Religious Belief”, Religious Studies 44 (2008), pp. 445-455.

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TaiChi April 20, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Baldwin and (Michael) Thune offer a defeater for properly basic theistic belief in “The Epistemological Limits of Experience-Based Exclusive Religious Belief”, Religious Studies 44 (2008), pp. 445-455.  

Link for anyone interested.

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anon April 20, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Baldwin and (Michael) Thune offer a defeater for properly basic theistic belief in “The Epistemological Limits of Experience-Based Exclusive Religious Belief”, Religious Studies 44 (2008), pp. 445-455.  

Thanks EA I will check it out.

Also, thanks for the clarification John D.

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anon April 20, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Baldwin and (Michael) Thune offer a defeater for properly basic theistic belief in “The Epistemological Limits of Experience-Based Exclusive Religious Belief”, Religious Studies 44 (2008), pp. 445-455.  

Are you sure this is the right article? The abstract says this:

“Alvin Plantinga and other philosophers have argued that exclusive
religious belief can be rationally held in response to certain experiences –
independently of inference to other beliefs, evidence, arguments, and the like – and
thus can be ‘properly basic’. We think that this is possible only until the believer
acquires the defeater we develop in this paper, a defeater which arises from an
awareness of certain salient features of religious pluralism. We argue that, as a
consequence of this defeater, continued epistemic support for exclusive religious
belief will require the satisfaction of non-basic epistemic criteria (such as evidence
and/or argumentation). But then such belief will no longer be properly basic. If
successful, we will have presented a challenge not only to Plantinga’s position, but
also to the general view (often referred to as ‘reformed epistemology’) according to
which exclusive religious belief can be properly basic.”

This makes it sound like they are arguing against exclusive religious belief rather than general belief in Theism. A brief scan of the article seemed to confirm this.

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ayer April 20, 2010 at 6:37 pm

I see a couple of problems with Baldwin’s argument (keep in mind these are layman’s objections, so I would be interested to hear if Plantinga has addressed Baldwin directly):

In footnote 24, Baldwin says: “Surely, that there are multiple extensions of the A/C model is not the same thing as the mere fact of religious pluralism, and so my objection cannot be dealt with in the same manner as can defeaters based on the mere fact of religious pluralism.” But I think if you read Plantinga’s discussion on page 441-442 of WCB on these latter types of defeaters, it does deal equally well with Baldwin’s type of defeater, particularly where Plantinga notes that “if there is a source of warrant for Christian belief that is independent of any it acquires by way of probabilistic relations to other beliefs, then the fact (if it is a fact) that Christian belief isn’t particularly likely with respect to those others doesn’t show anything of much interest. It certainly doesn’t provide a defeater for Christian belief.” Why would “other beliefs” here not include the belief that the extended A/C model could apply to other religious faiths?

The other problem is raised by Craig on p. 49 of “Reasonable Faith” in relation to the “self-authenticating internal witness of the Holy Spirit”, but it seems it could be applied to Baldwin’s argument. Even if the extended A/C model can apply to other religious faiths, if the Christian version is qualitatively different internally, why should the Christian assign equal probability to the veridicality of the experience of adherents of the other faiths? As Craig says, “why should I think that when a Mormon claims to experience a ‘burning in the bosom’ he is having an experience qualitatively indistinguishable from the witness of the Holy Spirit that I enjoy? I see no reason to think that non-veridical religious experiences are indistinguishable from the witness of the Holy Spirit.”

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Josh April 20, 2010 at 7:54 pm

As Craig says, “why should I think that when a Mormon claims to experience a ‘burning in the bosom’ he is having an experience qualitatively indistinguishable from the witness of the Holy Spirit that I enjoy?I see no reason to think that non-veridical religious experiences are indistinguishable from the witness of the Holy Spirit.”  

I must say that this statement is hilarious.

“Your religious experience isn’t as good as mine!”
“Why’s that?”
“Because it’s not true!”
“Why’s that?”
“Because your religious experience isn’t as good as mine!”

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exapologist April 20, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Hi Anon,

No I’ve read it. I was assuming the current conversational context was one in which the kinds of theism at issue are those associated with particular religions (esp. Christian theism). If not, I hereby explicitly qualify my previous use of theism to religious theisms.

The argument is offered against properly basic belief in “creedal-specific” theisms — i.e., theisms associated with a set of creeds that are incompatible with other religions. Thus, from the first paragraph of the article:

“Here, we will use the term ‘reformed epistemology’ (RE) to capture the general view according to which belief in God, as well as particular creedal-specific religious beliefs, can be properly basic (and hence, rational or warranted for the believer), if not in the way Plantinga describes, then in some other similar way. A person who holds ‘creedal-specific religious beliefs’ accepts the truth of propositions associated with a particular religious tradition. These beliefs (with which we will be concerned) are ‘exclusive’, since their propositional
content entails the falsehood of other, incompatible religious beliefs. While granting that RE may show how religious belief can be epistemically rational or warranted in a properly basic manner, we argue that (1) such belief is subject to defeat, and (2) the epistemic resources of RE leave this defeater undefeated.”

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exapologist April 20, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Thanks for providing the link to Baldwin and Thune’s paper, TaiChi!

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Justfinethanks April 20, 2010 at 8:38 pm

I see no reason to think that non-veridical religious experiences are indistinguishable from the witness of the Holy Spirit.

Yeah, I’m also a little confused on how this explanation solves this particular problem. This is saying, in essence “I see no reason to think that experiencing an illusion is indistinguishable from experiencing reality.” And that may be so, but it calls into question whether your assumed reality is actually the illusion. So how do you distinguish what is what? Do you (to quote the nifty argument map) adduce propositional evidence?

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Bram van Dijk April 20, 2010 at 10:32 pm

Thanks John, I really like these posts.

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TaiChi April 20, 2010 at 11:09 pm

“Thanks for providing the link to Baldwin and Thune’s paper, TaiChi!” ~ exapologist

Sure. While I’m at it, Warranted Christian Belief is free online too for anyone to check.

“But I think if you read Plantinga’s discussion on page 441-442 of WCB on these latter types of defeaters, it does deal equally well with Baldwin’s type of defeater, particularly where Plantinga notes that “if there is a source of warrant for Christian belief that is independent of any it acquires by way of probabilistic relations to other beliefs, then the fact (if it is a fact) that Christian belief isn’t particularly likely with respect to those others doesn’t show anything of much interest. It certainly doesn’t provide a defeater for Christian belief.” Why would “other beliefs” here not include the belief that the extended A/C model could apply to other religious faiths?” ~ Ayer

Okay, let’s paraphrase that:
If there is a source of warrant for sensory beliefs that is independent of any it acquires by way of probabilistic relations to other beliefs, then the fact (if it is a fact) that sensory beliefs aren’t particularly likely with respect to beliefs in Naturalism and Evolution doesn’t show anything of much interest. It certainly doesn’t provide a defeater for sensory belief.

I’m alluding to Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, of course. Do you think this is an adequate reply to Plantinga’s claim that an evolutionary naturalist cannot rationally believe in the reliablity of their senses? After all, the Naturalist doesn’t just think it likely that her sensory faculties are reliable, she believes it; it is a member of the set of propositions she believes; hence its probability with respect to that set is 1. The reason, clearly, is that this belief has a source of warrant independent of any it gets by way of its probabilistic relations to her other beliefs… as you’ll find Plantinga saying in WCB.

I don’t think that would be a satisfactory reply to the EEAN. But in that case, the reply Plantinga gives to religious pluralism and you’re suggesting he would give to Baldwin’s argument can’t be satisfactory either.

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Roman April 21, 2010 at 6:08 am

Wow thanks TaiChi, I didn’t realise Warranted Christian Belief was available online for free!

Also thanks for the link to Baldwin and Thune’s paper.

Now to decide who’s right…

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ayer April 21, 2010 at 6:18 am

I don’t think that would be a satisfactory reply to the EEAN. But in that case, the reply Plantinga gives to religious pluralism and you’re suggesting he would give to Baldwin’s argument can’t be satisfactory either.

I don’t have time to examine your EAAN analogy right now, but just wanted to note that Baldwin concedes in his article that Plantinga’s reply to the religious pluralism objection is successful (in footnote 24).

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ayer April 21, 2010 at 6:22 am

Yeah, I’m also a little confused on how this explanation solves this particular problem. This is saying, in essence “I see no reason to think that experiencing an illusion is indistinguishable from experiencing reality.” And that may be so, but it calls into question whether your assumed reality is actually the illusion. So how do you distinguish what is what? Do you (to quote the nifty argument map) adduce propositional evidence? Justfinethanks

The argument would be that if the extended AC model as applied to Christianity generates a qualitatively different experience of knowledge from the model as applied to other religions, then it remains a “defeater-defeater”, including for the “defeater” that the AC model can be extended by those other religions (in a qualitatively different way). A defeater-defeater requires no propositional evidence to support it.

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anon April 21, 2010 at 6:34 am

Hi Anon,No I’ve read it. I was assuming the current conversational context was one in which the kinds of theism at issue are those associated with particular religions (esp. Christian theism). If not, I hereby explicitly qualify my previous use of theism to religious theisms.The argument is offered against properly basic belief in “creedal-specific” theisms — i.e., theisms associated with a set of creeds that are incompatible with other religions. Thus, from the first paragraph of the article:“Here, we will use the term ‘reformed epistemology’ (RE) to capture the general view according to which belief in God, as well as particular creedal-specific religious beliefs, can be properly basic (and hence, rational or warranted for the believer), if not in the way Plantinga describes, then in some other similar way. A person who holds ‘creedal-specific religious beliefs’ accepts the truth of propositions associated with a particular religious tradition. These beliefs (with which we will be concerned) are ‘exclusive’, since their propositional
content entails the falsehood of other, incompatible religious beliefs. While granting that RE may show how religious belief can be epistemically rational or warranted in a properly basic manner, we argue that (1) such belief is subject to defeat, and (2) the epistemic resources of RE leave this defeater undefeated.”  

OK. Thanks EA.

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Josh April 21, 2010 at 8:57 am

The argument would be that if the extended AC model as applied to Christianity generates a qualitatively different experience of knowledge from the model as applied to other religions, then it remains a “defeater-defeater”, including for the “defeater” that the AC model can be extended by those other religions (in a qualitatively different way).A defeater-defeater requires no propositional evidence to support it.  

But it seems like you need propositional evidence to make the incredibly arrogant claim that applying the extended AC to your particular religion generates a “qualitatively different experience of knowledge”.

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Mark April 21, 2010 at 9:01 am

But I think if you read Plantinga’s discussion on page 441-442 of WCB on these latter types of defeaters, it does deal equally well with Baldwin’s type of defeater, particularly where Plantinga notes that “if there is a source of warrant for Christian belief that is independent of any it acquires by way of probabilistic relations to other beliefs, then the fact (if it is a fact) that Christian belief isn’t particularly likely with respect to those others doesn’t show anything of much interest. It certainly doesn’t provide a defeater for Christian belief.” Why would “other beliefs” here not include the belief that the extended A/C model could apply to other religious faiths?

But for Plantinga, the source of Christian belief isn’t independent of our confidence in our God-perceiving faculties. You might as well say: “I know I’m not hallucinating this giant rabbit even though everyone around me says I am, because the source of my warrant in trusting my perceptual faculties is independent of anything that comes by way of evidence.” That an extended A/C model can be attached to most religions shows that other religious believers can tell a story about what their sensus divinatus says roughly identical to mine. Therefore, trusting in the deliverances of my sensus divinatus requires me to suppose that theirs is deceiving them, or otherwise performing worse than mine. But I have no antecedent reason to suppose this is true.

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ayer April 21, 2010 at 1:35 pm

But for Plantinga, the source of Christian belief isn’t independent of our confidence in our God-perceiving faculties.

Are you saying that according to Plantinga the source isn’t independent of its relationship to the probable truth of other beliefs (including beliefs about the probable truth of other religions)? Because that’s not the case at all, as the portion of WCB I quoted indicates. My point is that Baldwin concedes that Plantinga deals effectively with the religious pluralism objection, but does not show why Plantinga’s response to that objection does not also deal with Baldwin’s “extended AC” objection. Baldwin’s brief mention in footnote 24 that the cases are just “different” is not an argument.

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anon April 21, 2010 at 1:42 pm

It seems to me that TaiChi has a point: Either an argument for low probability of faculty reliability is a defeater for beliefs from that faculty or it isn’t. If it is, then Baldwin’s argument goes through on Plantinga’s extended A/C model of warranted Christian belief. If it isn’t, then Plantinga’s EAAN isn’t a defeater for basic beliefs for naturalists. Therefore, either Baldwin’s argument goes through on Plantinga’s extended A/C model of warranted Christian belief or Plantinga’s EAAN isn’t a defeater for basic beliefs for naturalists.

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ayer April 21, 2010 at 1:46 pm

But it seems like you need propositional evidence to make the incredibly arrogant claim that applying the extended AC to your particular religion generates a “qualitatively different experience of knowledge”

Why is that? Why wouldn’t the internal witness of the Holy Spirit (a being not believed in by adherents of other faiths) necessarily (by definition) produce a qualitatively different experience than that of other religions? That is the point Craig is making. It requires no propositional evidence.

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ayer April 21, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Either an argument for low probability of faculty reliability is a defeater for beliefs from that faculty or it isn’t.

It is not a defeater for the internal witness of the Holy Spirit because “there is a source of warrant for Christian belief that is independent of any it acquires by way of probabilistic relations to other beliefs.” What is the source of warrant for the rationality of belief on naturalism that is independent of any it acquires by way of probabilistic relations to other beliefs?

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Josh April 21, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Why is that?Why wouldn’t the internal witness of the Holy Spirit (a being not believed in by adherents of other faiths) necessarily (by definition) produce a qualitatively different experience than that of other religions?That is the point Craig is making.It requires no propositional evidence.  

But that’s not what Craig is saying. He says “I see no reason to think that non-veridical religious experiences are indistinguishable from the witness of the Holy Spirit.”

Since “veridical” means “truthful”, he is clearly implying that the witness of the Holy Spirit is a truthful religious experience, while other religious experiences are not. But how can he possibly make the claim that his experience is truthful while others are not a priori? For example, it could be that he has a qualitatively different experience from a Hindu, but it’s because Hindu’s are right and he’s wrong. He needs propositional evidence to make the claim he made, otherwise he’s just asserting something ridiculous.

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anon April 21, 2010 at 2:44 pm

@ayer:

You wrote: “It is not a defeater for the internal witness of the Holy Spirit because “there is a source of warrant for Christian belief that is independent of any it acquires by way of probabilistic relations to other beliefs.” What is the source of warrant for the rationality of belief on naturalism that is independent of any it acquires by way of probabilistic relations to other beliefs?”

Well, for foundationalists in general — whether theist or not — certain beliefs are justified or warranted independently of their relationships. Experiences (e.g., perceptual, memorial, introspective, etc.) confer prima facie justification on their corresponding beliefs.

Also, Plantinga and Craig allow that basic beliefs can be defeated due to propositional evidence. So, for example, they both allow that basic Christian belief can be defeated by strong evidence that, say, the disciples stole Jesus body. So it’s just not true that Craig (or Plantinga) infer “indefeasible” from “justified in a way independent from propositional support”.

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anon April 21, 2010 at 2:45 pm

er, “…independently of their relationships to propositional evidence.”

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Justfinethanks April 21, 2010 at 2:58 pm

So, for example, they both allow that basic Christian belief can be defeated by strong evidence that, say, the disciples stole Jesus body.

I really don’t think that is the case for Craig.

Craig: What I’m claiming is that even in the face of evidence against God which we cannot refute, we ought to believe in God on the basis of His Spirit’s witness. Apostasy is never the rational obligation of any believer, nor is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. God can be trusted to provide such powerful warrant for the great truths of the Gospel that we will never be rationally obliged to reject or desert Him.

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7679

I don’t think there is any conceivable scenario which would make Craig abandon his beliefs.

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Mark April 21, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Are you saying that according to Plantinga the source isn’t independent of its relationship to the probable truth of other beliefs (including beliefs about the probable truth of other religions)? Because that’s not the case at all, as the portion of WCB I quoted indicates.

I think you’re misinterpreting the quote. Plantinga is saying there that we can’t defeat Christian belief just by showing that it’s improbable on (some subset of) one’s other beliefs B, assuming that the source of the warrant of Christian belief does not derive from reasoning about B. To use Plantinga’s poker example, when I’m playing poker and see that I have a royal flush, my justification derives from my perception that I have a royal flush, and so the “prior improbability” of getting a royal flush hardly serves as a defeater. But if I had reason to believe that the source of the belief – my perceptual faculties – had been tampered with, that would constitute a defeater for my belief.

Plantinga was addressing a naïve argument from pluralism to the effect that since there are many religious beliefs, Christianity is improbable. This is clearly analogous to the royal flush case, where information from my perceptual faculties (or sensus divinatus) trumps “blind” probability calculations from background data. But Baldwin is not arguing that the probability of Christianity is low. He’s arguing instead that the probability that any given extended A/C model is low. This is analogous to arguing that our perceptual faculties in the royal flush case have been tampered with.

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anon April 21, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Hi Justfinethanks,

I had in mind passages like this one from Craig in the link you (kindly) gave:

“if Jesus’ bones were actually found, then the doctrine of his resurrection would be false and so Christianity would not be true and there would be no witness of the Holy Spirit. So if Jesus’ bones were found, no one should be a Christian. Fortunately, there is a witness of the Holy Spirit, and so it follows logically that Jesus’ bones will not be found.”

Now of course, he thinks the bones won’t be found, since he thinks the Holy Spirit’s witness is real. Still, the conditional still entails that if such bones were to be found, then that would do the trick.

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anti_supernaturalist April 21, 2010 at 4:02 pm

There are no supernatural phenomena, only supernatural interpretations of phenomena.

the anti_supernaturalist

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TaiChi April 21, 2010 at 4:04 pm

“It is not a defeater for the internal witness of the Holy Spirit because “there is a source of warrant for Christian belief that is independent of any it acquires by way of probabilistic relations to other beliefs.” What is the source of warrant for the rationality of belief on naturalism that is independent of any it acquires by way of probabilistic relations to other beliefs? ” ~ Ayer

Your answer is “the sensory faculties themselves”, if “the rationality of belief on naturalism” refers to the rationality of belief in the reliability of the senses, given naturalism. I’m afraid I don’t see the disanalogy.

Anon,
Thanks – you’re on to it.

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Justfinethanks April 21, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Still, the conditional still entails that if such bones were to be found, then that would do the trick.

I considered that section, but it doesn’t seem to really override his other assertion that it’s never rational to abandon Christian belief. Assuming there was overwhelming evidence archeologists had uncovered that the bones of Jesus have been silently resting in a tomb for two millennia, Craig would consider himself perfectly rational to trust the witness of the Holy Spirit over such evidence.

It’s true that he admits that Christianity is false if they are Jesus’ bones in reality, but he would simply deny that any amount of evidence, no matter how powerful, should compel one to the conclusion that this is the case.

In other words, Craig seems to hold that Christian belief is defeasible in theory, but in practice I think he would agree that there is no event or discovery that would make him rationally compelled to abandon Christianity.

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anon April 21, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Justfinethanks,

Yes, I think your in practice/in principle distinction captures Craig’s stance perfectly. Notice that in that linked-to post by Craig, he requires that the Holy Spirit “pump up” the vivacity or intensity of his internal witness in order to counteract defeaters. And he also commits to the view that, as a matter of fact, the Holy Spirit will always do so for the sincere, seeking Christian who is doubting. However, at least in my own case (and I believe in Luke’s case as well), this just isn’t in fact what happens. In the face of crushing evidence, I sought God and sought answers. The problem is that God didn’t quench my uncertainty with a lively “internal witness” sufficient to function as an intrinsic defeater. Therefore, I take that as evidence that Craig’s Holy Spirit epistemology is defeated.

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ayer April 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm

In other words, Craig seems to hold that Christian belief is defeasible in theory, but in practice I think he would agree that there is no event or discovery that would make him rationally compelled to abandon Christianity. Justfinethanks

Yes, I believe your analysis is correct, since an “intrinsic defeater-defeater” is impervious to all defeaters.

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ayer April 21, 2010 at 5:16 pm

In the face of crushing evidence, I sought God and sought answers. The problem is that God didn’t quench my uncertainty with a lively “internal witness” sufficient to function as an intrinsic defeater. Therefore, I take that as evidence that Craig’s Holy Spirit epistemology is defeated.

Craig addresses that in Reasonable Faith: “Therefore, when a person refuses to come to Christ, it is never because of lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come because he willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God’s spirit on his heart.”

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ayer April 21, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Your answer is “the sensory faculties themselves”, if “the rationality of belief on naturalism” refers to the rationality of belief in the reliability of the senses, given naturalism.

It is my recollection that the EAAN concerns the reliability of the cognitive belief-forming faculty–it grants the reliability of sense-perception. And that the only narrative the naturalist has to describe how the cognitive faculty is warranted is self-defeating (since evolution selects only for survival value, not truth attainment). But it has been awhile since I looked at it closely.

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lukeprog April 21, 2010 at 5:49 pm

ayer,

Craig’s claim is just plain false. A great many non-Christians do not willfully ignore or reject God. In fact I don’t know anybody who willfully rejects God like that.

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ayer April 21, 2010 at 6:18 pm

ayer,Craig’s claim is just plain false. A great many non-Christians do not willfully ignore or reject God. In fact I don’t know anybody who willfully rejects God like that.  

I tend to disagree with Craig myself; I was just pointing out he had responded to the precise objection raised. However, I also don’t think that individual failure to attain the “internal witness of the Holy Spirit” necessarily disproves Craig’s entire epistemology.

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justfinethanks April 21, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Craig’s claim is just plain false.

Yeah, I really hate it when people assign ulterior motivation for belief or claim that someone doesn’t really believe what they claim to believe. Can’t we all assume that the people with whom we disagree, whether theist or atheist, are just sincere but mistaken?

I mean I suppose I could claim that Craig’s belief in an afterlife stems from his apparently crippling thantophobia:

I remember vividly my father told me that someday I would die [...] When he told me, I was filled with fear and unbearable sadness. And though he tried repeatedly to reassure me that it was a long way off, that did not seem to matter. Whether sooner or later the undeniable fact is that I would die and be no more, and the thought overwhelmed me [...] The prospect of death and the threat of non-being is a terrible horror.

-Reasonable Faith, pg. 71

But I don’t, because 1) It’s irrelevant. 2) It would be patronizing and insulting. Instead, I believe he holds to an afterlife for intellectual reasons, but he is simply mistaken. I can’t honestly claim to believe otherwise without being a mind reader. I wish he could extend non-believers a similar courtesy.

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Mark April 21, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Can’t we all assume that the people with whom we disagree, whether theist or atheist, are just sincere but mistaken?

Well, there’s a Biblical case to be made for the claim that everyone secretly knows God exists, so no, I’m not sure we all can assume that. Although in that case, saying stupid things about human psychology would be another thing to hold against Christianity.

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exapologist April 21, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Hi Ayer,

“Yes, I believe your analysis is correct, since an “intrinsic defeater-defeater” is impervious to all defeaters.”

Well, this may or may not be Craig’s view of intrinsic defeater-defeaters, but it isn’t Plantinga’s. According to Plantinga’s analysis of intrinsic defeater-defeaters (back in the days if his exchanges with Phillip Quinn), is relativized to a given defeater. As Plantinga puts it:

“When a basic belief p has more by way of warrant than a potential defeater q of p, then p is an intrinsic defeater of q — an intrinsic defeater-defeater, we might say.” (Plantinga, “The Foundations of Theism: A Reply”, Faith and Philosophy 3:3 (1986), p. 311. Emphasis added).

Thus, on Plantinga’s account of an intrinsic defeater-defeater, P may be an intrinsic defeater-defeater for some defeater Q, and yet not be an intrinsic defeater-defeater for some other defeater R.

It’s instructive to look closely at the old exchanges between Plantinga and Quinn on the issue of intrinsic defeater-defeaters, and on whether Christian theism can be properly held in the basic way in the face of all defeaters. As the debate plays out, it becomes clear that Plantinga ties a belief’s or experience’s capacity to function as an intrinsic defeater-defeater for a given defeater to the force and vivacity of that belief or experience. Basically, the belief or experience has to be on the order of (what epistemologists call) a Moorean Fact. Plantinga’s two illustrative cases are the purloined letter case and the Moses and the Burning Bush case. In both cases, the experiences serving as intrinsic defeaters have maximal force and vivacity. And one of Quinn’s main points is that, at least in his own case, and no doubt in very many cases, the force and vivacity of beliefs formed by the triggering-conditions Plantinga envisages (the “widely-realized conditions”) don’t have anywhere near the force and vivacity of a purloined letter memory or a “burning bush” experience of the sort Moses is reported to have enjoyed.

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TaiChi April 21, 2010 at 7:46 pm

“It is my recollection that the EAAN concerns the reliability of the cognitive belief-forming faculty–it grants the reliability of sense-perception.” ~ Ayer

That’s probably closer to Plantinga’s presentation, although I take it one’s sensory faculties are belief-forming faculties. (I don’t know what sense there would be in calling someone’s senses reliable if they kept coming up with the wrong beliefs about what they see).

“And that the only narrative the naturalist has to describe how the cognitive faculty is warranted is self-defeating (since evolution selects only for survival value, not truth attainment). But it has been awhile since I looked at it closely.” ~ Ayer

Self-defeating how? By making it improbable that our belief-forming faculties are reliable? But on what basis are we to judge them improbable? The set of beliefs that include the proposition that they are reliable? But, obviously, the likelihood that our belief-forming faculties are reliable with regard to that set is 1, given that it is part of that set…. and so the merry-go-round continues.
Where’s the disanalogy?

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ayer April 21, 2010 at 8:01 pm

And one of Quinn’s main points is that, at least in his own case, and no doubt in very many cases, the force and vivacity of beliefs formed by the triggering-conditions Plantinga envisages (the “widely-realized conditions”) don’t have anywhere near the force and vivacity of a purloined letter memory or a “burning bush” experience of the sort Moses is reported to have enjoyed.

I quite sure from reading his work that Craig would dispute that the force and vivacity of the internal witness are less than the purloined letter memory. I’m not sure about Plantinga; did he say his experience of the internal witness did not have anywhere near the force of that?

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ayer April 21, 2010 at 8:08 pm

That’s probably closer to Plantinga’s presentation, although I take it one’s sensory faculties are belief-forming faculties. (I don’t know what sense there would be in calling someone’s senses reliable if they kept coming up with the wrong beliefs about what they see).

I recall a detailed distinction Plantinga makes between sensory faculties and belief forming faculties (e.g., sensory faculties have led human beings to form religious beliefs, and on the atheist view the former are reliable and the latter clearly false, though with survival value). But I will need to re-read my copy of “Naturalism Defeated?” by Plantinga and cohorts to refresh my memory of the EAAN. Perhaps we can pick this up in the comments to the next installment on Baldwin.

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exapologist April 21, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Hi Ayer,

“I quite sure from reading his work that Craig would dispute that the force and vivacity of the internal witness are less than the purloined letter memory.”

I imagine you’re right that he’d assert that, but I guess I’m interested in whether it’s true. I suppose I’ll have to take his word for it. However, the more interesting claim, and one which Craig is also committed to, is whether this is true of all believers. I haven’t had occasion to verify, but my guess is that it’s not. Indeed, I imagine it’s true of only a handful of believers at most (Moses? Paul? Jesus?). Could it really be true that the average rank-and-file believer has an internal witness of the Holy Spirit on a par with a Moorean Fact — i.e., on the order of the force and vivacity of Moore’s “I know that this is a hand” (said when holding his hand in front of his face, in excellent lighting conditions)? If so, then what could explain the testimony of my friends and acquaintances (and my own experience when I was a Christian) of having little more than “gentle nudges” that we interpret, with lots of help from one’s believing community, apologetics books, commentaries, etc., that such nudges are from the third person of the trinity? That’s hard to believe, no? In any case, many Christian philosophers agree with Quinn (and myself) on this (e.g., Sandra Menssen, Keith DeRose, Andrew Chignell, and others).

“I’m not sure about Plantinga; did he say his experience of the internal witness did not have anywhere near the force of that?”

No that was Quinn’s claim in response to Plantinga’s Purloined Letter case and his Moses and the Burning Bush case.

Well, I better get to bed. I’m heading out of town in the morning, but I’ll be back in a few days. Interesting discussion!

Best,
EA

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ayer April 22, 2010 at 4:00 am

I imagine you’re right that he’d assert that, but I guess I’m interested in whether it’s true. I suppose I’ll have to take his word for it. However, the more interesting claim, and one which Craig is also committed to, is whether this is true of all believers. I haven’t had occasion to verify, but my guess is that it’s not.

I guess I would just disagree. As with memory of one’s innocence, the experience of the knowledge of God can vary in strength, just as at some times a memory seems stronger than others, yet we are clearly justified in viewing the purloined letter knowledge as held in a properly basic way. In an earlier thread I also compared it to the kind of knowledge one has of basic moral facts (which can be experienced more or less strongly depending on the mood one is in, but are still known in a properly basic way;
see http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.2832571/k.7E46/The_Moral_Argument_for_Gods_Existence.htm
This very issue was raised by Robert Gressis at Prosblogion, jumping off from that older thread: http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2010/02/what-is-it-like.html

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ayer April 22, 2010 at 5:21 am

To use Plantinga’s poker example, when I’m playing poker and see that I have a royal flush, my justification derives from my perception that I have a royal flush, and so the “prior improbability” of getting a royal flush hardly serves as a defeater. But if I had reason to believe that the source of the belief – my perceptual faculties – had been tampered with, that would constitute a defeater for my belief.

An analogy that makes this clearer is the purloined letter case: if I know I am innocent based on the memory of my alibi, it does not constitute a defeater if 3 other people claim they have a memory of me committing the crime–even though they point to the same mechanism (memory) that I do, since the source of my warrant (properly basic memory experience) is independent of their claims. It indicates that their claim to knowledge is qualitatively different from mine (and non-veridical) even though they claim it is based on the same mechanism–in this case I am justified in concluding that they are just mistaken about that, absent a separate showing that I am nonfunctional is some direct way, e.g., I have been drugged, etc.

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Mark April 22, 2010 at 10:29 am

An analogy that makes this clearer is the purloined letter case: if I know I am innocent based on the memory of my alibi, it does not constitute a defeater if 3 other people claim they have a memory of me committing the crime–even though they point to the same mechanism (memory) that I do, since the source of my warrant (properly basic memory experience) is independent of their claims. It indicates that their claim to knowledge is qualitatively different from mine (and non-veridical) even though they claim it is based on the same mechanism–in this case I am justified in concluding that they are just mistaken about that, absent a separate showing that I am nonfunctional is some direct way, e.g., I have been drugged, etc.

Actually, Baldwin would accept that that does (or could) constitute a defeater to your memory. It depends on a bunch of other things, e.g., whether I have any reason to suspect that the other three people would want to frame me for something, whether (given the limitations of human memory) they might have confused me for a lookalike, whether their memories might have been tampered with, etc. But if, say, my three best friends report to have spent the entire day with me and come with me to steal the letter, pass a bunch of accurate lie detector tests, etc., then Baldwin would say I have defeater to my memory. And he’d say something very similar goes for the reportage of my sensus divinatus (assuming such a thing exists).

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ayer April 22, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Actually, Baldwin would accept that that does (or could) constitute a defeater to your memory.

Ok, but I disagree. This case, as with the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, would constitute an intrinsic defeater-defeater that would overcome such hypothetical evidence. And I think the analogy holds when the “evidence” consists of “other extended AC models” posited by other religions. See:

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “However, I believe that I spent the day in the woods and so could not have stolen the letter. My memory belief has a great deal of nonpropositional warrant for me. So despite the counter-evidence, I’m justified to believe that I was in the woods and didn’t steal the letter. Here it seems that the ostensible defeatee actually operates as a defeater-defeater. Plantinga of course isn’t suggesting that an actually defeated belief restores warrant to itself by defeating an acquired defeater. It’s not as if my belief that I didn’t steal the letter was actually defeated at some point in time and its justification subsequently restored. The idea is rather that the original belief prevents or insulates itself from being defeated because the defeating potential of counterevidence is antecedently neutralized by the degree of warrant had by original belief. So I never actually acquire a defeater for my belief that I was in the woods or that the belief that I didn’t steal the letter (Sudduth, 1999, pp. 180-82).” http://www.iep.utm.edu/ep-defea/

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lukeprog April 22, 2010 at 1:24 pm

SEP and IEP are so handy!

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Mark April 22, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Ok, but I disagree. This case, as with the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, would constitute an intrinsic defeater-defeater that would overcome such hypothetical evidence.

Baldwin addresses this in his paper: “I have shown that given the truth of the Standard A/C model it is more likely than not that a particular extension of it is false. This probability judgment is not subjective, but objective; it is not based on what S is willing to or psychologically able to accept, nor is it based on what S feels like or is accustomed to accepting or anything of the sort.” In other words, if the objective probability of your belief being true is low, you can’t appeal to your belief as an intrinsic defeater-defeater to the claim that the objective probability was low. (Which is why if everyone else agrees that the giant rabbit I am seeing right now is a hallucination, I can’t just appeal to the vividness of my perception of the giant rabbit to defeat their defeating testimony.)

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Mark April 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm

In other words, if the objective probability of your belief being true is low, you can’t appeal to your belief as an intrinsic defeater-defeater to the claim that the objective probability was low.

Err, this should read: “If the objective probability of your belief-forming mechanisms being reliable is low, you can’t just appeal to the deliverances of your belief forming mechanisms to intrinsically defeat this defeater.” Indeed, this will clearly be true in the purloined letter case. If it turns out I had taken a pill that was likely to alter my memories, I can’t just point to the vividness of my memories to defeat this.

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TaiChi April 22, 2010 at 4:07 pm

“Perhaps we can pick this up in the comments to the next installment on Baldwin. ” ~ Ayer

Sure, if you think some subtle distinction’s going to help.

“If the objective probability of your belief-forming mechanisms being reliable is low, you can’t just appeal to the deliverances of your belief forming mechanisms to intrinsically defeat this defeater.” ~ Mark

It seems to me that these examples confuse reasons and explanations. That my experiences are vivid and powerful explain why I retain my belief despite counter-evidence, but they do not always give me a reason to do so, a warrant for my belief.

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ayer April 22, 2010 at 5:02 pm

If it turns out I had taken a pill that was likely to alter my memories, I can’t just point to the vividness of my memories to defeat this.

I agree with that twist on the scenario–a direct showing of irrationality or damage to the faculties of the man accused in the purloined letter case (or the Christian in the case of the internal witness of the Holy Spirit) would be effective; but Baldwin’s argument does not demonstrate any such direct reason to think the Christian AC extended model is nonveridical, only that other religions claim their model is veridical and that such should constitute a defeater based on probability considerations. In the purloined letter case, if I have taken no such pill, then I am justified in concluding that my memory experience of my innocence is correct, and the 3 witnesses against me have a serious flaw in their memories that renders them nonveridical.

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Mark April 22, 2010 at 5:17 pm

In the purloined letter case, if I have taken no such pill, then I am justified in concluding that my memory experience of my innocence is correct, and the 3 witnesses against me have a serious flaw in their memories that renders them nonveridical.

Once again, Baldwin thinks you’re wrong here. If you have no independent reason (i.e., no reason besides assuming your memory about the letter is veridical from the outset) to suspect that your memory is more reliable than the witnesses’ memories, then he says you do have a probabilistic defeater to your memory – and one that can’t be overturned merely by pointing to the strength or vividness of your memory, because it concerns objective probability. So I’m finding it difficult to see what your objection is supposed to consist in.

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ayer April 22, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Once again, Baldwin thinks you’re wrong here. If you have no independent reason (i.e., no reason besides assuming your memory about the letter is veridical from the outset) to suspect that your memory is more reliable than the witnesses’ memories, then he says you do have a probabilistic defeater to your memory – and one that can’t be overturned merely by pointing to the strength or vividness of your memory, because it concerns objective probability. So I’m finding it difficult to see what your objection is supposed to consist in.  

My argument is simply that Baldwin has offered nothing that Plantinga’s responses to analogous challenges in WCB have not already dealt with (the religious pluralism and intrinsic defeater-defeater material specifically). Those who already rejected Plantinga’s material on those two areas will find Baldwin’s argument convincing; those who find Plantinga persuasive on those two areas will find Baldwin redundant.

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Mark April 22, 2010 at 7:01 pm

My argument is simply that Baldwin has offered nothing that Plantinga’s responses to analogous challenges in WCB have not already dealt with (the religious pluralism and intrinsic defeater-defeater material specifically).

It’s not analogous. The religious pluralism objection from those WCB pages, as well as the material from the exchange with Quinn you allude to, concerns the epistemic improbability of a religious belief’s truth. Baldwin’s objection concerns the objective improbability of a religious belief’s source being reliable. Baldwin gives reasons for thinking the moves one makes in response to the first don’t succeed in response to the second.

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ayer April 22, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Baldwin gives reasons for thinking the moves one makes in response to the first don’t succeed in response to the second.

Ok, we just disagree. I don’t find those reasons persuasive. A source of self-authenticating warrant can be an intrinsic defeater-defeater, whose reliability is unaffected by the conflicting truth claims of others, or by the claims of others to have a similar mechanism of warrant for conflicting truth claims. An attack on an intrinsic defeater-defeater would have to be much more direct to succeed (e.g., a claim that the holder of the self-authenticating warrant was drugged, had a brain tumor, etc.).

I also think Baldwin’s article fails to deal with Craig’s point about the qualitative difference of various religious claims to a self-authenticating witness. I see no way that religions who reject the triune nature of the deity, with the specific role played by the Holy Spirit, could ever be determined to have an experience of self-authentication qualitatively similar to the claim made by Christianity. As I quoted Craig above, “why should I think that when a Mormon claims to experience a ‘burning in the bosom’ he is having an experience qualitatively indistinguishable from the witness of the Holy Spirit that I enjoy? I see no reason to think that non-veridical religious experiences are indistinguishable from the witness of the Holy Spirit.” If the Christian’s experience is self-authenticating, and the Christian has not been shown to be drugged, insane, etc., then by definition the claims of other religions to an equivalent mechanism of warrant are mistaken.

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Mark April 22, 2010 at 8:34 pm

A source of self-authenticating warrant can be an intrinsic defeater-defeater, whose reliability is unaffected by the conflicting truth claims of others, or by the claims of others to have a similar mechanism of warrant for conflicting truth claims.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I thought you just agreed that the “self-authentication” of a cognitive faculty F cannot serve as a defeater to the charge that F is objectively unlikely to be reliable (as with, e.g., the memory-altering pill). If so, then since Baldwin’s primary contention is that the multiplicity of applicable A/C extensions renders your God-apprehending faculties objectively (not epistemically) unlikely to be reliable, you need to find another way to resist his conclusion. E.g., show that said multiplicity doesn’t tell us anything about objective probabilities.

As I quoted Craig above, “why should I think that when a Mormon claims to experience a ‘burning in the bosom’ he is having an experience qualitatively indistinguishable from the witness of the Holy Spirit that I enjoy? I see no reason to think that non-veridical religious experiences are indistinguishable from the witness of the Holy Spirit.” If the Christian’s experience is self-authenticating, and the Christian has not been shown to be drugged, insane, etc., then by definition the claims of other religions to an equivalent mechanism of warrant are mistaken.

Presumably his religious experience isn’t qualitatively indistinguishable: it’s got more of a “Mormon flavor” or whatever. But if a bunch of Mormons tell you that they enjoy some extremely similar-sounding experiences, that seems like excellent reason to suppose they’re having them. I don’t see what the non-veridicality of their experiences has to do with whether they’re having those experiences in the first place. It’s not like the fact that I vividly remember one thing means you can’t equally vividly remember the opposite.

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exapologist April 24, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Hi Ayer:

You wrote:
“I guess I would just disagree. As with memory of one’s innocence, the experience of the knowledge of God can vary in strength, just as at some times a memory seems stronger than others, yet we are clearly justified in viewing the purloined letter knowledge as held in a properly basic way. In an earlier thread I also compared it to the kind of knowledge one has of basic moral facts (which can be experienced more or less strongly depending on the mood one is in, but are still known in a properly basic way”.

Yes. I’m agreeing with you about this bit: the purloined letter memory, knowledge of basic moral facts, etc., are warranted in the basic way in virtue of their force and vivacity on Plantinga’s account. But my point (and Quinn’s) is that the analogy then breaks down between basic theistic beliefs and these other beliefs. For while the latter have maximal or near-maximal force and vivacity, basic religious beliefs do not — at least for many believers. It seems to me that Plantinga has never adequately responded to this charge of Quinn’s, even in his mature explication of reformed epistemology in WCB.

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Erik B. May 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm

OK, so I’m caught up on reading the discussion. Being late to the ‘party’, and since the discussion seems to be winding down, perhaps there isn’t much I can add to the conversation that will address all the concerns. But I’ll add a few points of emphasis.

On page 15 of “Could the Extended …?”, I argued that “any strategy implemented by the Plantingan that allegedly provides an epistemically basic reason for thinking that her own extension of the Standard A/C model is true can be appropriated by al-Plantingans, Al Plantingachandrans, and Al ben Plantingans equally well … each of them could utilize the same formal structure of that argument but in doing so make different substantive claims.”

Reflecting on this, more could be said, because I rely heavily on the idea. That is, whatever a Plantingan (i.e., someone who likes and accepts Plantinga’s proper functionalist epistemology — including his models of warrant) might say in response to deal with the defeater I raise can be said – mutatis mutandis — by Plantinga’s compadres. The upshot is that, each of them, from their own view of the situation, make the same epistemic moves to defend the appropriateness of their own beliefs about God.

At this stage in the argument, things veer into another related epistemological debate: how to deal with disagreement. In this context, the question is this: when one realizes that others, who are (or seem) just as smart, reasonable, and as well informed as you are, disagree with you about the truth of some proposition (or set of propositions) p, there are (at least) three main options: (a) all parties involved get an epistemic defeater for p, (b) no one gets an epistemic defeater p, or (c) all parties get a partial defeater for p. (Perhaps one person could get a deafer, partial or full, and the other not, but lets set aside funky cases like that.)

–> see http://philpapers.org/browse/epistemology-of-disagreement

When I wrote the near final version (barring edits) of this paper (in 2005 or so), I hadn’t read much on the topic. At any rate, given that people ought to be worried about whether their creedal specific beliefs are true, it seems wrong to affirm (b). After all, most — all but one! — of Plantinga and his Compadres have false and unwarranted beliefs. So, it’s more reasonable to think that either (a) or (c).

But Plantinga (and all of his Compadres, presumably, in order to be good Plantingans would follow suit) resists that conclusion. He is committed to (b). He thinks that no defeater arises in the first place, not from how I’ve told the story so far (in print or in conversation). In short, he is not convinced about the probabilities involved. The complicated answer would take another post, but, roughly, the worry is that it’s unclear just what is being conditionalized here, and so unclear why Plantinga or his Compadres ought to agree with the set-up. It’s more problematic given that, from their own point of view, none of them believe on the basis of probability, and there is no reason for any of them (from their own point of view) to limit themselves to the antecedent probability (i.e., the likelihood that one extension is true prior to looking at the evidence).

In short, there is more for the Plantingan to say about why (b) is correct, but I still think it’s less plausible that (a) or (c).

Perhaps this helps answer some general concerns (and hence is able to apply to more specific ones, too).

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lukeprog May 5, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Thanks for the update, Erik.

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