Book Review: Knowledge and Christian Belief (part 1)

Knowledge and Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga. Copyright 2015. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 126 pages.

Here I am going to give a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of Alvin Plantinga’s 2015 book Knowledge and Christian Belief. In this first post I will cover the first four chapters; the subsequent chapters will be covered in another post.

This book is meant as a layman’s version of Plantinga’s much longer and more technical 2000 book Warranted Christian Belief. and so it is possible that some of my criticisms are addressed in the more thorough treatise. Here I will only be taking the shorter book into consideration.

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Material and Immaterial: Why Spiritualism is Untrue

This idea of a non-physical realm that transcends the physical has been a persistent one. What this even means will usually depend on who you ask. However, it usually has something to do with ethereal spirits working within arbitrary laws that have little or nothing to do with the physical laws we are familiar with. Sometimes it is the realm ghosts inhabit – the disembodied spirits of people who’ve died. Sometimes it is described more as a divine realm where angels and souls exist, somehow able to communicate actions into the physical realm when it pleases them. What spiritualism always has in common, though, is that it has everything to do with human beings.

The following post is an excerpt from a book I’m writing that has to do with human consciousness and the human condition. In this section I discuss why spiritualism is, at best, a hypothesis that should be rejected as an explanation for consciousness.

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The Mereological Issue With Sports

What is it that makes an organization what it is? Is it the sum of the constituent people? An idea? The problem of sports organizations is that they don’t have anything that persists through time – the 1985 Chicago Bears is not the same thing as the 2019 Chicago Bears.

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Is Consciousness Logically Supervenient?

I am currently reading David J. Chalmers’ 1996 book “The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory” which claims that, due to consciousness not being logically supervenient, there is no reductive explanation for consciousness. Thus Chalmers concludes that consciousness must be explained through a dualist paradigm. I have some issues with the argument.

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God Does Not Exist: Philosophical Arguments

Among the Abrahamic religions, multiple arguments have been put forward by philosophers and theologians to prove the existence of God. I’m an atheist and don’t think any of these arguments are convincing. In this post – the first in a series I will do concerning the existence of God – I will demonstrate why I personally don’t think these philosophical arguments are very convincing.

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Is the Mind Immaterial or Material?

Cartesian dualism has been a point of contention in philosophy since at least, well, Descartes. The dispute is whether the mind is a separate, immaterial entity from the physical body. Problems have plagued the dualist view since the time of Descartes, primarily how it is that the immaterial mind and material body interact.

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Knowledge, Belief, and Action

Can propositional beliefs (belief about the truth or falsehood of a that P statement) be held without it influencing behavior? It’s difficult to say whether a belief is really a belief if it doesn’t change behavior, or if beliefs, by their very nature, necessarily change behavior. I think one can argue that a belief is more justified if it changes behavior in a particular way. That is what I’ll discuss here.

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Categories of Understanding, Qualia, and the Operations of Intuition

Understanding how consciousness and the mind is generated is best done using the bottom-up approach of neuroscience, but if the consciousness/mind is performing recursive, downwardly causal actions on the Lockean Ideas – the content of thinking/cognition – then what are the mental mechanisms being utilized? Here I present some nascent ideas for your consideration.

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Existence and Essence in Our Time

I’ve been reading a bit of Scholastic and Islamic Golden Age philosophy – namely Thomas Aquinas and Abu Ali al-Husayn ibn Sina (Avicenna). In those times, people were obsessed with two things: the Greek philosophers (Plato, the neoplatonists, and Aristotle) and being able to reconcile the Grecian ontology with their monotheistic, Abrahamic religion. It’s interesting to read their philosophy, but I was wondering if it had any relevance to modern philosophy.

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Can We Become the Absurd Hero?

Voltaire once said that “if God didn’t exist we would have to invent him.” Our imaginations are, of course, limited by our evolutionary past. To us, God has to be human-like. God must be benevolent, meaning it’s actions must seek to benefit humans. Why wouldn’t we invent a God like that? We are human-centered by our very nature. We feel that we deserve our self-designated special place in the universe.

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Structure of the Mind

Consciousness and qualia are problems that are still unsolved by philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. My way of viewing consciousness and qualia is that consciousness is the process by which our brains organize the world into working models and qualia is the ‘stuff’ that consciousness uses to generate those models. For better or worse, both of these exist due to evolutionary forces. That means they’re fine tuned to a very specific sort of survival, not for any pure understanding of the world or ourselves. In order to understand the limitations of our own minds, we need to know the inner workings of how the world is organized in our minds on a fundamental level. That requires knowing the structure of our minds.

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