Continuing discussion.

EPS Blog

This is the blog area for the Evangelical Philosophical Society and its journal, Philosophia Christi.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Alvin Plantinga's New Argument Against Materialism

The Summer 2012 issue of Philosophia Christi showcases a noteworthy discussion between Alvin Planting and Michael Tooley regarding Plantinga's "new argument against materialism." We are grateful for their contributions and for Jeremy Evans' (SEBTS) guest editor work. In fact, here's how he introduces this discussion:
Materialism is the rage these days, so much so that some Christian thinkers are shifting away from long-standing traditions on the relationship of the mind and body (dualism of some sort) to provide a more scientific vision of mind-body interaction and personal identity. In order to move this discussion forward Philosophia Christi invited Alvin Plantinga to advance some of his arguments made in his famous essay “An Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism,” drawing to the front some of the problems that materialism must address. In this entry, Plantinga focuses on some problems inherent to materialism pertaining to theories of belief formation, intentionality, and the undertakings of agents. In essence, Plantinga argues that if materialism is true (whether it be of a reductive or nonreductive type) then the usual connection between beliefs and intentions do not provide the causal story that is needed to account for a person’s undertaking some endeavor. If neither beliefs nor intentions are causally relevant to an agent’s undertakings, then, as Plantinga argues, this provides a strong argument against materialism. We invite the reader to inspect Plantinga’s entry in order to piece together the argument.

We also invited Michael Tooley to provide a materialist response to Plantinga. Tooley seemed especially suited for this discussion given his previous exchange with Plantinga in their excellent book, The Knowledge of God (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008). In this entry, Tooley seeks to overcome what, he thinks, are misrepresentations of materialism by Plantinga—personal identity does not track bodily identity, or brain identity, or upper brain identity, so I am not identical with my body, or with my brain, or with my upper brain. After developing some necessary groundwork, Tooley argues that Plantinga’s new argument against materialism is unsound because it “fails to distinguish, first of all, between mere physical movement on the one hand, and genuine, intentional action on the other, and secondly, between the causation of mere physical movement on the one hand, and the explanation of genuine intentional action on the other. Subsequent to this argument Tooley then advances what is, in his opinion, the strongest form of materialism and why Plantinga’s argument does not address it. In his second article, Plantinga offers a response to this critique.
You can purchase the Summer 2012 issue or become a subscriber to the journal or a member of the EPS and receive this issue as part of your membership.

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Blogger Glenn said:

Surely the evolutionary argument against naturalism is only an argument against naturalism - the belief that the physical universe is all that exists. It's only an argument against mind-body physicalism is the physicalist thinks that there are no intentions behind the way we have developed. But naturally (see what I did there), the mind-body physicalist who is a Christian does believe that there are such intentions and that God designed us so that our belief forming faculties, when working properly under the right conditions, tend to form true beliefs.

So on the face of it, it sounds like over-reaching to apply this argument to the task of refuting mind-body physicalism.

By Blogger Glenn, at June 23, 2012 at 10:01 PM  

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