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Reason and Proper Function (eBook)

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     Alvin Plantinga, in Warrant: The Current Debate, notes that

there is a long history in Anglo-American epistemology that

traces back to the classical internalist views of Rene Descartes

and John Locke. Internalism is the view that an individual

has special access to that quantity or quality that makes true

belief into knowledge. This internalism, according to Plantinga,

is motivated by deontology – or epistemic duty fulfillment.

Closely connected with epistemic deontology is justification.

Justification (or what Plantinga prefers to call ‘warrant’) is that

quantity or quality, enough of which makes true belief into

knowledge. Plantinga strongly objects to the deontological

view of justification, claiming that no amount of duty fulfillment

can get us to knowledge. He says justification is neither

necessary nor sufficient for warrant.

     In Warrant: The Current Debate (hereafter WCD) Plantinga

examines several versions of internalism – from Classical

and Post-Classical Chisholmian internalism, several forms of

coherentism, to reliabilism – to show that none of these views

get us to that quantity or quality enough of which makes true

belief into knowledge. Plantinga rejects all of these views,

arguing that what is needed is a view that takes into account the

proper function of our cognitive faculties. He then proposes to

give a more accurate account of warrant in Warrant and Proper

Function (WPF). Plantinga’s theory is that a belief is warranted

if it is formed by cognitive faculties functioning properly in an

appropriate environment and according to a good design plan.

     The purpose of this book is to examine Plantinga’s view of

cognitive malfunction in connection with his view of warrant

and his rejection of the traditional view of justification. I

will argue that the cognitive faculty of reason does not and

cannot malfunction in the way that Plantinga either explicitly

or implicitly suggests. Consequently Plantinga’s criticism of

justification does not stand. I argue further that if reason is

not subject to malfunction and is thus reliable, the traditional

view of justification – having appropriate reasons for belief

in conjunction with true belief, possibly with the addition of

a fourth condition (the carefulness criterion) – will get us to

knowledge.

     Alvin Plantinga, in Warrant: The Current Debate, notes that

there is a long history in Anglo-American epistemology that

traces back to the classical internalist views of Rene Descartes

and John Locke. Internalism is the view that an individual

has special access to that quantity or quality that makes true

belief into knowledge. This internalism, according to Plantinga,

is motivated by deontology – or epistemic duty fulfillment.

Closely connected with epistemic deontology is justification.

Justification (or what Plantinga prefers to call ‘warrant’) is that

quantity or quality, enough of which makes true belief into

knowledge. Plantinga strongly objects to the deontological

view of justification, claiming that no amount of duty fulfillment

can get us to knowledge. He says justification is neither

necessary nor sufficient for warrant.

     In Warrant: The Current Debate (hereafter WCD) Plantinga

examines several versions of internalism – from Classical

and Post-Classical Chisholmian internalism, several forms of

coherentism, to reliabilism – to show that none of these views

get us to that quantity or quality enough of which makes true

belief into knowledge. Plantinga rejects all of these views,

arguing that what is needed is a view that takes into account the

proper function of our cognitive faculties. He then proposes to

give a more accurate account of warrant in Warrant and Proper

Function (WPF). Plantinga’s theory is that a belief is warranted

if it is formed by cognitive faculties functioning properly in an

appropriate environment and according to a good design plan.

     The purpose of this book is to examine Plantinga’s view of

cognitive malfunction in connection with his view of warrant

and his rejection of the traditional view of justification. I

will argue that the cognitive faculty of reason does not and

cannot malfunction in the way that Plantinga either explicitly

or implicitly suggests. Consequently Plantinga’s criticism of

justification does not stand. I argue further that if reason is

not subject to malfunction and is thus reliable, the traditional

view of justification – having appropriate reasons for belief

in conjunction with true belief, possibly with the addition of

a fourth condition (the carefulness criterion) – will get us to

knowledge.


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