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God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God (Cornell Paperbacks) Paperback – May 8, 1990
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In considering the Cosmological, Ontological, and Teleological arguments, Plantinga points out that most criticisms of these arguments do not obtain, but still, at the end of the day, the natural theologian is not in a better position. Admittedly, this section is dizzying. The ontological argument comprised two chapters (though we did get a fine survey of the then-current literature).
Plantinga explores the atheologian's criticisms of theism: the problem of evil (PE), the free will(FV) defense, and verificationism (Vf). With regard to PE, Plantinga notes if the atheologian's premises are correct, it still doesn't prove that God doesn't exist. There is no logical contradiction between the classical theistic view of God and the existence of evil. The atheologian needs to add the following premise:
(a) An all-powerful, all-loving God is *morally obligated* to create a world where persons freely choose the good at all times.
But introducing moral considerations is off-limits for the atheologian at this time. In any case, the atheologian's criticism only speaks of what kind of God exists, not that he doesn't exist.
Plantinga's FW defense is the best chapter in the book. Whether we hold to free will or not is true, Plantinga argues that it is logically coherent and thus serves to defeat the atheologian's defeater. The atheologian wants the following premise:
(b) God could create a world where the state of affairs obtain where a person P freely chooses the good at all times.
As Plantinga notes, this is hard to square with any definition of freedom. Further, just because God is omnipotent does not mean that he can create any state of affairs (e.g., God cannot create the state of affairs that is not created by God!) Further, Plantinga gives a nice discussion of what is a human person:
(c) x is a possible person = def. x is a consistent set of H properties such that for every H property P, either P or P (complement) is a member of x (Plantinga 141).
And if it is false that God can instantiate any possible state of affairs he chooses, then it is false that he can create any person he chooses. Therefore, (b) is no threat to theism.
God and Other Minds
This last section was confusing. Plantinga argued that the other minds analogy has drawbacks but then suggests something like it to *justify* belief in God.
Evaluation and Limitations
This book was one of Plantinga's earlier projects. Notice that I have been using the word "justify" in terms of evaluating belief in God. By the time of Warrant and Proper Function, Plantinga has replaced this line of thought. Justification is a stricter criterion of rationality. It suggests deontological duty and if Plantinga wants to speak of theistic belief as *justified* on the basis of other minds analogy, then his project certainly falls short. But this is no longer Plantinga's position.
The book has more historical value than apologetic value.
His grouping of the belief in other minds with the belief in God as epistemologically the same type of belief was a great move. This book however was a bit of a tough read because of the heavy use of modal logic. In order to get the most out of this book you need to have at least a minimal background in formal logic. However, if you don't you will still be able to get the general jist of it (which is still really good).
Also, he addresses every major argument for/against God in this book. Its a helpful resource for learning to address those sorts of arguments.
The first part of the book discusses the classic arguments for and against the existence of God: cosmological, ontological, teleological, existence of evil and divine hiddeness. Whereas the latter part of the text argues that belief in God is rational along the lines that belief in other minds is rational. I offer a few comments.
This is an important work in the philosophy of religion and Plantinga is an important thinker in this area. That said, however, I would not recommend this as an entry point into his work. This is one of his earliest works - he has written a tremendous amount of more concise and accessible material in the interim. For students of the philosophy of religion, however, this remains an essential read. This is classic Plantinga - some clear brilliance and exhaustive examination (at times bordering on the tedious). Readers not accustomed to rigorous philosophical analysis may find it a particularly tough slog at times.
Overall this is an important work by a leading philosopher. For those starting out in this area I might suggest something by Craig (theist) or Mackie (atheist) before engaging Plantinga.