Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fun With Alvin Plantinga

Below is a brief, irenic discussion I enjoyed with an atheist. She was responding to a Christian who basically stated that the relativistic notion, “There’s no such thing as absolutes,” is a self-defeating claim. 

For clarity our atheist friend’s words appear bold and italicized. (Her comments are unedited.) 

Also, for those who don’t know: Solipsism is a philosophical theory which posits the idea that oneself is the only existent thing. 


“its absolutely true that absolutes exists. one of those absolute truths s that you cant disprove solipsism. as such by definition there is no way to prove the existence of god is absolutely true.

its also absolutely true that god or no god I know I don't know everything, but I can know some things that are axiomatically true.” 

Speaking of "solipsism"...funny story...

Alvin Plantinga opened a lecture I attended with the following tale (I paraphrase, of course): 

As far as I know I've only met one true solipsist [a professor on a campus Plantinga was visiting]. He was very cordial; a nice fellow. He treated me as though I were a real human being. I remarked of this to the grad student who was showing me around. 

The grad student replied, “Oh, yes. We treat him very well...because...if he goes, we all go." 

It was hilarious to hear him tell it. 

“lol. btw i an not arguing its true i am just noting the in ability to actually disprove it.” 

Yes, I understand your point. 

Now...when you say, "One of those absolute truths is that you can't disprove solipsism," would you also affirm that one can't disprove theism? 

(I'm guessing you would affirm this.) 

“well both are unfalsifiable, and both lack proper justification. so yes i canty disprove theism in general it is surprising how many definition of god can be disproven.” 

It may be surprising, I suppose. (Definitions are tricky things.)  

If by "proper justification" you mean (from your earlier comment), "there is no way to prove the existence of god is absolutely true," then I believe you are setting an unreasonably high standard. 

I'd say that better than 90% of what we "know" or "believe" in experiencing our day-to-day existence, we cannot "prove" to be "absolutely true." Does this mean 90% of our "knowledge" or "beliefs" lack justification because they cannot be "proven absolutely true"? I don't think so. 

For example, am I justified in believing in my own human existence? I think I am. And yet, can I "absolutely prove to be true" that I am not some kind of information-gathering robot, sent to earth by an advanced alien society, which has been programmed to believe it is human? 

No. I don't suppose I can "absolutely prove to be true" my own humanity. But am I justified in believing in my humanness? I think so. 

Similarly, is Christian theism a justified belief? I don’t see why not. 

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