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Edited by James Beilby Naturalism Defeated is a collection of essays responding to Alvin Plantinga's thesis that human rationality is unlikely in a purely naturalistic view of evolution, or in other words, if human cognitive faculties developed in an entirely undetermined manner it is unlikely that reason would be reasonable. This argument has been put forth by Plantinga previously in Warrant and Proper Function. I offer the following thoughts for potential readers.
The discussion is structured in a common format for these types of book-length philosophical examinations. Initially, Plantinga provides an overview of his argument. This is followed by a collection of essays discussing and criticizing his thesis. These comments are then followed by Plantinga response to the various contributors. Often in this style of discussion the principle author is allowed to interact individually with each critic. In the present volume, given the number of contributors, a single comprehensive response at the end appears to be the best approach to minimize redundancy.
Plantinga continues to set the stage for much of the discussion within the philosophy of religion and is arguably one the most capable contemporary philosophical thinkers. His handling of the naturalistic evolution - rationality question is characteristically powerful, clear and clever. Given its sweeping repercussions the perceived success or failure of the various commentators will in significant part be determined by the readers' worldview. For instance some atheists may find Plantinga's contention unpalatable irrespective of its logical and intellectual rigor. Whereas, certain theists may be presupposed to gloss over challenges to Plantinga's proposition.Read more ›
Naturalists are usually seen as paragons of rationality while theists are thought to be at the edge of crazy. Alvin Plantinga's argument challenged this identification questioning even the possibility of holding to Naturalism and trusting the cognitive faculties. This book begins with challenges to the evolutionary argument against naturalism and ends with a response to the challenges by Alvin Plantinga. The eleven critical essays here are divided into four sections each one dealing with a separate set of objections to the evolutionary argument against naturalism. The argument itself is briefly presented in the beginning and then re-presented even more briefly by each of 'Beilby's cohorts'. There is some repetition in the book, which is not so bad when you're looking for clarification on the most contentious points under discussion. The main areas of criticism in the book are from Science (Evolution), Skepticism, Conditional Probabilities/Confirmation Theory and the Nature of Epistemic Defeat. Prior to reading this book I had thought Plantinga's argument was very strong -- so I was basically looking for objections that I was unaware of and answers to those objections; I found a lot of both. If you already agree with Plantinga you will probably find clarification and strengthening of the argument; if you don't already agree, well, then, I don't know what you'll find maybe shock/horror? Actually, most of the book is critical and provides ammunition for dissenters. But, in the end I think the worst that could be said about the argument is that it was 'bloodied but unbowed' (Plantinga). I found William Alston's comments very helpful -- they suggest a different way of formulating the argument -- something like a Reductio ad Absurdum I think.
So many Scientists now a days, and so much positivism and bad philosophy to go along with it.
So much Lack of philosophical thinking, to go along with materialism. As Bad philosophy = Bad scientific interpretation
So much emphasis on the verification principle, which begs the question how can one use the verification principle on the verification principle?
Well the new age scientists who are naturalists seem to come in with a biased naturalistic mindset of "The Supernatural cannot exist, because the supernatural can't exist" circular reasoning. So now it's time for the real "free-thinkers" to bail us out.
Evolutionary Naturalism asserts brain adaptation for "Survival" not "truth" so this really opens the doors to anyone who has an open-mind.
How can we trust our cognitive faculties? What's the secret the ingredient that gives us a sure way of trusting our reason, when reasoning came from reasonless matter?
Plantinga lays down a beauty and puts forth a great argument against Evolutionary Naturalism
In *Naturalism Defeated?: Essays on Alvin Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism*, Plantinga restates his original argument, followed by eleven essays critical (or not very critical) in varying degrees, and capped by Plantinga's response.
Though the topic is important (four stars?), the book is disappointing (two), so I rather arbitrarily gave it three. The critics are all academic philosophers of various types, but except for Jerry Fodor, none seems to show much depth in science. If only Richard Dawkins, or better yet Daniel Dennett, had been aboard.
To illustrate a way that naturalism plus evolution would not lead to cognitive reliability, Plantinga uses this example:
*So suppose Paul is a prehistoric hominid; a hungry tiger approaches. Fleeing is perhaps the most appropriate behavior. I pointed out that this behavior could be produced by a large number of different belief-desire pairs. To quote myself: Perhaps Paul very much likes the idea of being eaten, but when when he sees a tiger, always runs off looking for a better prospect, because he thinks it unlikely that the tiger he sees will eat him. This will get his body parts in the right place so far as survival is concerned, without involving much by way of true belief.* [Followed by three equally goofy scenarios.]
One can only imagine the guffaws this bizarre fantasy would (or should) provoke. However, they are largely absent from the book. The critics are much too genteel. Maybe academic philosophy is the wrong place for dealing with this; a better venue would be a barnyard, with a great big shovel.