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Warrant and Proper Function 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195078640
ISBN-10: 0195078640
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Editorial Reviews


"A must for all epistemologists and philosophers of religion. Seldom is sustained philosophical argument such a joy to read."--Religious Studies Review

"...will undoubtedly generate extensive debate because of the breadth of scope, meticulous detail and resourceful argument that are so characteristic of Plantinga's work."--International Studies in Review

"The present volume and its two companions raise larger issues and promise to significantly broaden the scope and influence of this epistemological project....There is much that is provocative and of great interest in this new book from Plantinga....readers of the first two volumes will find much food for thought here, and will have their appetites whetted for the third, forthcoming volume of the trilogy."--Mind

From the Back Cover

Here I must acknowledge a complication with respect to my way of thinking of warrant. I aim at something in the neighborhood of an analysis of warrant: an account or exploration of our concept of warrant, a concept nearly all of us have and regularly employ.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 27, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195078640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195078640
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.8 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #370,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By S. Guha on May 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
There are two epistemological works I think every philosopher should read. One is David Lewis' "Elusive Knowledge", which should be available in any good anthology of papers on the subject. The other is "Warrant and Proper Function". For what "Naming and Necessity" did for de re modality, "Warrant" will do for epistemology. If you give it a thorough, unbiased reading--that means you put out of your head all the warped notions we've inherited from Descartes, Hume, Kant, and the like--you will realize that this, or something like it, has got to be the correct approach to an account of knowledge. Among its many achievements, this superb book solves Gettier's problem, explains the difference between knowledge and true belief, distinguishes knowledge from justified true belief, solves the "problems" of the external world, other minds, and Cartesian skepticism generally, shows how we can know so much through the testimony of others, explains how to understand induction and the notion of evidence, and even takes a crack at analyzing epistemic probability. In addition to this, it explores the notion of proper function, itself of immense (and unappreciated) philosophical importance, and concludes with a delightful exposition of the self-imposed dialectical problems of evolutionary naturalism. What more can a philosopher ask for?
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Reading and rereading this book is a treat. Plantinga is not just giving you his conclusions. It is almost as if you are sitting with him while he is working through the issues at hand and explaining his reasoning to you. You read as he carefully considers evidence and counter-evidence. His tentative conclusions never seem to outstretch the evidence that he has marshaled thus far. The opportunity to observe one of the world's great living philosophers at work should not be missed.

This book is the second in a trilogy. In the first volume, Warrant: The Current Debate, Plantinga carefully dealt with current theories in epistemology, specifically with the concept that is commonly referred to in the literature as justification. He showed how the other theories, though valuable in furthering the debate, are still lacking in specific ways.

In this volume, Plantinga lays out his own theory. He shows how it relates to other theories, and how it better deals with (or fails to deal with) certain recurring epistemological problems. As a reader, I appreciate his sense of humor and most of all, his humility. He doesn't jump up and down, call you names, and try to convince you that he is right when he knows that problems still remain (Dennett and Dawkins could learn from this; doing so would enhance their credibility). He `fesses up to the problems that must still be overcome. In doing so, he is making a valuable contribution to a conversation that began with Plato in Theaetetus, and is setting the agenda for further research.
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Plantinga begins by examining the Gettier-type problems that internalist accounts of knowledge face. Having shown these difficulties, Plantinga is now able to set the stage for his externalist approach to warrant. This he does by explaining our design function: Any well formed human being who is in an epistemically congenial environment and whose intellectual faculties are in good working order will typically take for granted at least three things: that she has existed for some time, that she has had many thoughts and feelings, and that she is not a thought or feeling (Plantinga 50).

He then examines three apparent weak points of externalism and show not only are they strong points, only a fool would challenge them: memory, other persons, and testimony. In the nature of the case we do not have basic beliefs about these three entities in the sense that evidentialism and classic foundationalism require (especially memory and testimony; solipsism has a host of problems beyond this). Throughout this defense we see the vindication of Thomas Reid.

The book is quite difficult and technical, though. The sections on probability will lose all but the most formidable philosophers. While reading these chapters one is reminded of Eowyn’s comments to Merry before the battle: “Courage, Merry; it will soon be over.”

He then gives a (mostly) wonderfully lucid discussion of coherentism, classic foundationalism, and Reidian foundationalism. Coherentism sees truth as a source of warrant in the existing relations of one’s beliefs: does a belief “cohere” and “mesh” in a larger noetic structure? Plantinga suggests this is inadequate because coherentism only tells us of the doxastic relationships between beliefs.
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This book is the second in Plantinga's three part series on Warrant. This book outlines Plantinga's theory of warrant and how it fits into what we call "knowledge." It is a bold and brilliant theory of knowledge.

Plantinga begins by defining warrant as that which, in addition to true belief, is sufficient for one to have knowledge. Then he begins to investigate what kinds of properties this "warrant" should have. This is a very clever way of coming up with a good definition of warrant. Plantinga comes up with examples to illustrate that warrant must include one's cognitive faculties working properly in a proper environment, amongst other things. The examples are clear and innovative. After going through the important properties that warrant should have, Plantinga then discusses how this theory of knowledge relates to things like induction and a priori knowledge. Using this theory of warrant, he is able to package all our faculties into a coherent view.

This is the book in which Plantimna develops the so-called "Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism." With his theory of warrant fresh in mind, he builds up an argument about why there is little reason to hold to the reliability of out cognitive faculties given BOTH evolution and naturalism. Again, a very clever and original argument, but it should be noted that this argument against naturalism is NOT the main premise of this book. It is a "side note", a corollary to Plantinga's theory of knowledge. My reason for writing this is to say that even if one does not find that argument compelling, this should not stop them from reading the book because it is ultimately a book about knowledge and what constitutes knowledge. In this regard, Plantinga gives a stunningly convincing theory of knowledge. This sets up for his final book in the series "Warranted Christian Belief" which will give (I am told) Christian interpretations and applications of this theory of knowledge. Very exciting.
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