3.30.2006

Live (the band), Plantinga, and Properly Basic Beliefs

Listening to Live today it struck me again how similar one of their song's lyrics is to Alvin Plantinga's proper functioning epistemology. This is true particularly of how Plantinga sees belief in God. For Plantinga one's belief in God is properly basic which means that one does not need any evidence to justifiably hold that belief (or hold that belief with warrant as he would prefer). Since we have the sensus divinitatis in us, certain circumstances (ie. seeing a sunset) give us an input such that when we are properly functioning we rationally output theistic beliefs, like a belief in God's existence.

Compare with Live's lyrics in their song 'Heaven':

"I don't need no one to tell me about Heaven, I look at my daughter, and I believe. I don't need no proof when it comes to God and truth, I can see the sunset and I perceive."

Seems to me like a secular rock band has been reading some philosophy of religion!

4 comments:

chaz said...

My question is, if the "sensus divinitatis" is legit, why does Plantinga do philosophy of religion? It's an honest question.

jon said...

Chaz, Plantinga's position is that belief in God does not *need* evidence to be rational. However, if you present the theist with a defeater for their theistic belief Plantinga does hold that for one's theistic belief to continue to be rational one must defeat the defeater or undercut it in some way. For reasons like these he works on the problem of evil.
The impression that he gives from working on a (modal) version of the ontological argument is that it is just a fun thing to try out.

chaz said...

What I don't understand is, why does the theist need to overcome (or undercut) the defeater? Why can't the theist simply appeal to the "sensus divinitatis" again? Plantinga's answer in Warranted Christian Belief is not clear on this point, at least not to me. If the theist can only appeal to the "sensus divinitatis" until confronted with a defeater, then I don't know anyone for whom appeal to the "sensus divinitatis" is epistemically responsible: we've all been presented with defeaters for belief in God at one time or another (and not just in philosophy classes), so for whom is the "sensus divinitatis" not a cop-out?

jon said...

Chaz, I think the idea is because of the sensus divinitatus one belief in Christian beliefs is rational unless presented with at defeater of theistic beliefs. Plantinga's idea is that you can't attack his epistemology without attacking theistic beliefs. If theism is true, then such beliefs will (likely?) be rational. If one's belief in God is being defeated then it would be innappropriate to appeal to the sensus divinitatus, though one could appeal to religious experiences.
Plantinga's notion of a defeater is also very strick. If D is a defeater for subject S's belief B, then S must believe D. So cases where someone presents a seeming problem that is not accepted by the subject will not count as a defeater. To be a defeater, D must also be accepted as a belief and be such that a rational (internally and externally) sophisticated Christian believer would accept D upon being presented with it (366). I'm not a big fan of this, but it would cut down on the defeaters that everyday people have encountered. If nothing else, this epistemology would establish a burden of proof, and that would be significant. My preferences, however, lie with internalist theories.