Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
John E. Nolt
Richard E. Aquila, E. J. Coffman, John R. Hardwig, Carl G. Wagner
Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism (EAAN) begins with the following simple idea: the evolutionary process of natural selection selects organisms due to adaptive behaviors, but not necessarily due to true beliefs. If this notion is even possibly true, then it is also possible that some (or many) of our own beliefs are not veridical and that our reasoning processes may not successfully point to truths (but are merely evolutionarily advantageous).
Once the deliverances and processes of our cognitive faculties have been thus called into question, it seems improper to provide an argument that one can trust one’s cognitive faculties and processes (because such an argument requires the presupposition of what one is trying to prove). The reflective metaphysical naturalist, upon seeing this, realizes that she has a defeater for her belief in the reliability of her cognitive faculties, and this eventuates into a defeater for all of her beliefs (including the belief in naturalism). So, a belief in naturalism, when conjoined with a belief in current evolutionary theory, puts the reflective naturalist in an epistemically undesirable (i.e., irrational) position. It is better, Plantinga says, to discard one’s belief in metaphysical naturalism.
Plantinga’s argument is not a globally skeptical one. His ultimate goal is to persuade people to give up naturalism as a metaphysical explanation, and to adopt theism instead. EAAN is an argument against naturalism that is intended to open a door for some later argument for theism; EAAN in itself is not an argument for theism.
In this paper, I attempt to: (1) explain EAAN via its historical development and refinement; (2) examine what I feel to be some of the most important critiques of EAAN (along with some of Plantinga’s responses); (3) put the argument in an Extended Summary in Logical Form; (4) comment upon the Extended Summary and, in the process of discussing the premises, settle upon what I feel to be the two main contested premises of EAAN; and, (5) conclude that Plantinga’s argument has thus far survived attack, and explain why I expect it to continue to do so in the future.
Mashburn, Emmett Frank, "On Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism. " PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 2010.