Paul Kelly

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Plantinga's criticisms of Classical Foundationalism
« on: May 18, 2011, 04:26:11 pm »

I've been reading a few articles by classical foundationalists lately and I must admit that their arguments are very appealing to me.  I'm not so sure Plantinga's two criticisms hold water:

(i) If only self-evident and incorrigible propositions are properly basic, then we are all irrational, since we commonly accept numerous beliefs that are not based on evidence and that are neither self-evident nor incorrigible.

I don't think those beliefs pointed out by Craig, Plantinga, Clark, et al are really foundational.  After all, I think we can err with respect to our memories or sense data.  So, we must say for any given belief about these things, they have a certain probability of being true.  However, foundational beliefs are supposed to be noninferential (but being probabilistic means they are inferred beliefs, dependent upon other beliefs).

Instead, I think belief in other minds/external world/past are natural inferences to the best explanation.  

(ii) The proposition Only beliefs that are self-evident or incorrigible are properly basic is not itself properly basic, since it is neither self-evident nor incorrigible. Therefore, if we are to believe this proposition, we must have evidence that it is true. But there is no such evidence.

The claim that classical foundationalism has no evidence is not an agreed upon claim.  For example, I think only beliefs that have an epistemic probability of 1 are properly considered foundational--and the only beliefs known for certain are incorrigible and self-evident beliefs.  If you have another criterion, let's hear it.  

I think this article responds nicely to Plantinga's criticism:




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Plantinga's criticisms of Classical Foundationalism
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2011, 10:52:27 am »

Thank you for referring to Plantinga. I don't think people talk about his work enough! There were a couple comments I wanted to make about your thoughts on proper basicality:

1. It is true that we at times err with respect to our sense data but that does not defeat the idea that our experience of having breakfast earlier this morning is basic. Plantinga and Craig both admit that people can be subject to being misled.

You explain that these things have a sort of probability to them and would thus make them not basic. I think we all can agree that if someone is mistaken that he had breakfast this morning, all things being equal, his cognitive faculties may not be functioning properly. For those whose cognitive faculties are functioning properly their belief that they had breakfast would be basic. And even then so what? In Faith and Rationality Plantinga refers to Descartes' notion of basicality as "It seems to me that I see a tree". Even if that person that thought he had breakfast was actually him such notion could be basic as it seems to him that he had breakfast.

I don't think these things are inferences to the best explanation. Even if they were and were taken out of a pool of options such types of supposed beliefs would still be basic (i.e. they are not based upon any other belief). So in our pool of options there might be certain beliefs that we could take as a conclusion but I think at the end of the day those beliefs will end up being based upon the belief that it seemed to me that I had breakfast.