Reason and Proper Function
Alvin Plantinga, in Warrant: The Current Debate, notes thatthere is a long history in Anglo-American epistemology thattraces back to the classical internalist views of Rene Descartesand John Locke. Internalism is the view that an individualhas special access to that quantity or quality that makes truebelief 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 thatquantity or quality, enough of which makes true belief intoknowledge. Plantinga strongly objects to the deontologicalview of justification, claiming that no amount of duty fulfillmentcan get us to knowledge. He says justification is neithernecessary nor sufficient for warrant. In Warrant: The Current Debate (hereafter WCD) Plantingaexamines several versions of internalism – from Classicaland Post-Classical Chisholmian internalism, several forms ofcoherentism, to reliabilism – to show that none of these viewsget us to that quantity or quality enough of which makes truebelief into knowledge. Plantinga rejects all of these views,arguing that what is needed is a view that takes into account theproper function of our cognitive faculties. He then proposes togive a more accurate account of warrant in Warrant and ProperFunction (WPF). Plantinga’s theory is that a belief is warrantedif it is formed by cognitive faculties functioning properly in anappropriate environment and according to a good design plan. The purpose of this book is to examine Plantinga’s view ofcognitive malfunction in connection with his view of warrantand his rejection of the traditional view of justification. Iwill argue that the cognitive faculty of reason does not andcannot malfunction in the way that Plantinga either explicitlyor implicitly suggests. Consequently Plantinga’s criticism ofjustification does not stand. I argue further that if reason isnot subject to malfunction and is thus reliable, the traditionalview of justification – having appropriate reasons for beliefin conjunction with true belief, possibly with the addition ofa fourth condition (the carefulness criterion) – will get us toknowledge.
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