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God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God (Cornell Paperbacks) [Paperback]

By Alvin Plantinga (Author)
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God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God (Cornell Paperbacks) by Alvin Plantinga

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Cornell University Press
Pages   277
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.48" Width: 5.55" Height: 0.72"
Weight:   0.75 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 8, 1990
Publisher   Cornell University Press
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0801497353  
ISBN13  9780801497353  

Availability  0 units.

More About Alvin Plantinga

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Alvin Plantinga is O'Brien Professor of Philosophy, at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of: Essays on the Metaphysics of Modality, The Nature of Necessity, Warrant and Proper Function, Warrant: The Current Debate, Warranted Christian Belief, and Science and Religion: Are they Compatible? (with Dan Dennett).

Alvin Plantinga has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Notre Dame.

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1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > General
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Theism

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Reviews - What do customers think about God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God (Cornell Paperbacks)?

If P Implies Q  Feb 20, 2008
All throughout the Seventies and early Eighties, I lived in Detroit and worked as a school janitor. The reason I had originally come to Detroit in 1965 was to study graduate philosophy at Wayne State University. My goal was to teach philosophy myself, although there were a few problems with that plan. One of them was that I didn't like academic philosophy, the subject I would have been teaching. Sometimes I even hated it. And yet I felt like a person who had a talent for it, or at least for philosophical thinking, and in fact this was the one thing about myself that I truly had confidence in. The only objective corroboration of this inner feeling, however, was a test I had taken my senior year in college called the GRE (Graduate Record Exam). In the philosophy exam, I scored in the 99th percentile of all those who took it that year.

Whatever this test measured, it obviously wasn't a reliable predictor of how a student would do in graduate school. I did miserably, but part of the blame for that definitely fell on the school. Before I got to Wayne State, I assumed it would be something like undergraduate college where I had two philosophy professors that I liked. They were good teachers and neither had an obvious philosophical preference that they tried to impose on their students.

At Wayne State it was just the opposite, and the person who came to personify everything I didn't like about this department was actually just an adjunct professor, someone who taught primarily at Calvin College, a religious school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He would take the train down to Detroit a couple of days a week to offer a seminar, a relatively small class where the students all sat around a single long table. Alvin Plantinga, a tall physically fit man in his early thirties, would be in his short-sleeved white shirt and tie, smoking his cigar, handing out mimeographed chapters of his forthcoming book, "God and Other Minds" that we would then proceed to discuss and critique.

Professor Plantinga was, in my opinion, an intellectually divided man. On the one hand he would ponder deep religious questions along the lines of "why bad things happen to good people", questions that for a believing Christian cannot not be answered rationally but only by more belief. Then on the other hand, he would try to use the empty techniques of 20th Century logical philosophy to prove that there was a God, when God is a profound mystery that can only be intuited or felt by some human faculty that goes deeper than our rational minds. Not to mention that he was wrong about Other Minds. The so-called "Other Minds" problem was the question of how we really know other people actually have conscious minds (as opposed to just being extremely sophisticated robots or whatever). This is not a matter of inferring that since I have a mind, and other people behave and look like I do, therefore they must have a mind too. The premise of this position doesn't really make any sense, for one thing, because a person can't start from the knowledge that they themselves have a mind and then speculate about how they know that other people do also.

I received a grade of `C' in Plantinga's class, which in graduate school was the equivalent of failing. It probably didn't help that my paper was only three pages long, but I wrote it in the style of my favorite philosopher, Wittgenstein-- concise numbered thoughts. Actually, it was more an imitation of the later Wittgenstein, rather than the almost incomprehensible one-sentence aphorisms of Wittgenstein's first book, the "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus." The Tractatus contained a series of hierarchically numbered propositions, such as "1. The world is all that is the case" or "4.1212 What can be shown, cannot be said." If you took away the German translation, which made up half of the "Tractatus", its length would only have been about 72 pages. And yet it had an enormous impact on philosophy.

The Wayne State department was totally committed to idea that language could be reduced to logic, which was the basic argument behind the "Tractatus", but we never even studied that book. Probably it was because the book was so hard to understand, but also perhaps because Wittgenstein later recanted his earlier beliefs and proposed an alternative theory of language in his later "Philosophical Investigations." So they focused instead on the more accessible works of Bertrand Russell and his followers. To me, Bertrand Russell and the writings of his followers were like the Old Testament, while Wittgenstein's "Investigations" was the New Testament. I couldn't grasp why Wayne State professors refused to see the light and remained trapped in the past.

In class we would argue about the dumbest things-- so-called "paradoxes", which were only problems that came about from the misguided attempt to convert the complex meanings of language into the narrow and somewhat contrived concepts of logic. For example: 1. George IV wished to know whether Sir Walter Scott was the author of "Waverly". 2. Scott was the author of "Waverly". 3. Therefore, George wished to know whether Scott was Scott--which is patently absurd.

They would convert these three sentences into logical propositions that supposedly showed it was a genuine philosophical dilemma that had to be dealt with by inventing a new logical term, called "denoting". Actually, it was just an example of how language with all its complex meanings can't be converted into logic. This wasn't one little isolated example, but rather a symptom of how their whole Bertrand Russell-inspired program of trying to replace ordinary language with symbolic logic was totally misguided.

They didn't seem to care about traditional philosophy at all. Most other schools offered a course or two in symbolic logic, but they weren't devoted to it the way the Wayne State department was. This collection of professors, who all more or less thought the same way, had been largely assembled by one man, the department chairman, who was a tall, dark, and handsome fellow who had written a number of books. In my two years at Wayne State, I only saw him one time. There was a special evening talk given by a British professor that I attended, just a small gathering of graduate students and a couple of the professors in the seminar room. As I came through the door with one or two other students, the department head asked me, "Are you a student here?" I answered yes. "I've never seen you," he said. "I know," I said. A few years later in 1968, he left for the greener pastures of the University of Indiana, and the change of orientation signaled by his arrival as chairman prompted all but three of the existing professors to resign, and so he had a chance to build up another department into a bastion of logical analysis.

Meanwhile back at Wayne State, it wasn't long before almost all the other philosophy professors got the hell out of Detroit themselves. The only one left was the man who had been my "adviser", and he happened to be a Detroit native.

Post Office Paranoid
Wrong is wrong.  Aug 20, 2007
Wrong's wrong. All the sophisticated argumentation in the world won't change that. Doctrines and mere theism simply do not deserve the elevated status of axioms or a priori true basic beliefs. The fact that unlike actually agreed upon axioms, theism is not universally agreed on as a self evident truth should be sufficient to make that clear.
Important Work in the Philosophy of Religion  Dec 16, 2005
Alvin Plantinga's "God and Other Minds" examines leading arguments for and against the existence of God. Plantinga is arguably the pre-eminent contemporary philosopher of religion. Originally published in the 1960s this edition was re-released in 1991with a new preface.

The first part of the book discusses the classic arguments for and against the existence of God: cosmological, ontological, teleological, existence of evil and divine hiddeness. Whereas the latter part of the text argues that belief in God is rational along the lines that belief in other minds is rational. I offer a few comments.

This is an important work in the philosophy of religion and Plantinga is an important thinker in this area. That said, however, I would not recommend this as an entry point into his work. This is one of his earliest works - he has written a tremendous amount of more concise and accessible material in the interim. For students of the philosophy of religion, however, this remains an essential read. This is classic Plantinga - some clear brilliance and exhaustive examination (at times bordering on the tedious). Readers not accustomed to rigorous philosophical analysis may find it a particularly tough slog at times.

Overall this is an important work by a leading philosopher. For those starting out in this area I might suggest something by Craig (theist) or Mackie (atheist) before engaging Plantinga.

Surely You Jest  Nov 4, 2004
If this book has a real defect, it is simply the extraordinary level of logical rigor. Rigor past a certain point is rigor mortis. It may be the most exacting discussion of arguments from other minds and from design ever written, and shows in detail (and, to my mind, pretty conclusively) that the usual forms of these arguments do not work. Whoever calls it a "survey" is talking through his hat; it is one of the most original pieces of destructive philosophical criticism since Hume's dialogues on natural religion.

The fellow who calls it a survey tells us that, while reason is powerless to justify belief in other minds, it is false that this means belief in God is just as rational as belief in other minds, because "we are compelled by experience to believe" in other minds. This is a howlingly bad argument. First of all, it is not at all obvious that we are so compelled, since there have been solipsists, Absolute Idealists, monistic pantheists, and skeptics of several varieties. The most that is obvious is that we are compelled to *act as if* there are other minds in ordinary life (ordinary American life, as opposed, say, to an ascetic in a cave)--which is not clearly the same as believing in them. Second, and more importantly, a universal compulsion to believe is not a *reason* to believe, in the sense relevant to traditional epistemology. The mere fact, if it is a fact, that we are naturally inclined (even irresistibly) to believe something doesn't mean our belief is *true*, nor does it constitute any reason to think that it's true. So to point to such a compulsion, even if it exists, is to give no justification at all for the belief. Therefore, even if belief in God is *completely unjustified and irrational*, for all this argument shows, it is exactly as rational as belief in other minds.

And further, Plantinga is not *offering* a justification of "faith" or of theism, in the sense of giving any reasons for believing in God. He is offering an argument that theism is rational, not in the sense that there are reasons for believing it, but in the sense that it is not contrary to reason to believe it without *having* reasons in support of it. These two are not equivalent, unless you beg the question by assuming that nothing is reasonable to believe except what can be proved by reason.

That doesn't mean Plantinga is right. But it does mean that these self-important, puerile criticisms reflect poorly on the critic, not on Plantinga.
Well done survey, but not a rational justification of faith  Sep 9, 2004
The main premise of this book is that it is as rational to believe in God as to believe in the existence of other minds, this is false. In principle, it is impossible to, by pure reason, justify belief in anything other than our own selves, yet we live by more than just pure reason alone, we believe in the existence of other minds beyond our own because we are compelled by experience to believe, but we are not at all compelled into believing in God's existence. Only to the person who is naturally inclined to belief in God does the existence of God seem obvious, to a true atheist, thw world and our place in it looks like a world without God. I am writing this review because I am offended as a believer in God (although someone who is outside of any traditional religion) that people still try to justify, by reason and science, faith in God, that is why we call it FAITH, because it is not supported by reason or science.

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