Alvin Plantinga. A Defense of Religious Exclusivism. RELIGIOUS EXCLUSIVISM VERSUS RELIGIOUS PLURALISM. 1. Exclusivism holds that a particular. This is a collection of philosophical papers by Alvin Plantinga. () ” Pluralism: A Defense of Religious Exclusivism”, The Rationality of. In “Pluralism: A Defense of Religious Exclusivism” Alvin Plantinga defends religious exclusivism from a variety of objections. In this paper I discuss one of those.

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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. More on Religious Exclusivism: A Reply to Richard Feldman. Roger Turner This is the penultimate version of a paper printed in Faith and Philosophy 32 Please do not cite this draft. The particular problem that Feldman thinks Plantinga has failed sufficiently to address is the problem of epistemic peer disagreement—that is, disagreement between two or more equally competent thinkers who share equally good reasons for, and are in equally good epistemic situations regarding, their contradictory beliefs—in matters of religious belief.

The belief that the tenets or some of the tenets of one religion are in fact true and, moreover, any propositions, including other religious beliefs that are incompatible with those tenets are false. So, he thinks that A is not the principle that undermines the exclusivist position. So, according to Feldman, Plantinga has failed to show that an exclusivist could be justified in continuing to hold her belief in a case of epistemic peer disagreement.

I will do this by offering three main objections: He concludes that his belief that racial bigotry is despicable is justified nonetheless. Feldman thinks that all should agree that this is a counterexample to A. But he thinks we should all agree because A is a principle regarding mere acknowledged disagreement as opposed to acknowledged epistemic peer disagreement. That is, A is a principle regarding mere disagreement as to whether p between two or more parties in which each party is aware of the other, dissenting, party, as opposed to disagreement as to whether p between two or more parties who believe each other to be equally competent thinkers who share equally good reasons for, and are in equally good epistemic situations regarding, whether p.

And nobody thinks mere acknowledged disagreements necessarily result in unjustified epistemic attitudes. Suppose a medical researcher does a careful study to examine the effectiveness of drugs E, F, G, and H for treating some disease.

The study indicates that E works best. Suppose that at first this is all the information she has relevant to the issue. At this point, we can assume, she is reasonably well justified in thinking that E works best. Suppose further that three other researchers have done similar studies, and one study indicates that F works best, another that G works best, and the last that H works best.

No researcher knows about any study other than his or her own. At this point, each of them has reasons good enough to justify believing that the drug that did best in his or her own study is in fact most effective…. But now suppose that [the original medical researcher] learns about all the other results…. She has her reasons and she knows that they have their comparable reasons. Is the researcher unjustified in her belief that E works better than its competitors? For, as Feldman points out, we can add further details to RC such that both i and ii are satisfied, but the researcher is fairly obviously justified in continuing to hold her belief that E works better than its competitors.

Consider one such addition we might make to RC. Suppose that the researcher knows about some flaws in the studies of the other researchers and that these flaws are such that the other researchers could not have been reasonably expected to know about them; in other words, these flaws are not the result of errors of reasoning or anything relevantly similar.


To be clear, RC is a case of mere acknowledged disagreement and not acknowledged epistemic peer disagreement because, while our researcher is aware that her colleagues have come to different conclusions than the one she has come to, she has further evidence as to why her colleagues are mistaken or, at any rate, have come to different conclusions than the one she has come to.

Thus, our researcher and her colleagues are not epistemic peers; and, if not, then RC is not a case of acknowledged epistemic peer disagreement. And RC helps us to see why: The parties involved are stipulated to be in an overall epistemic position that is equally good. Consider, then, the following anti-exclusivist principle that Feldman thinks sufficiently captures common intuitive reactions to cases of acknowledged epistemic peer disagreement. To see an initial reason why not, consider how Plantinga puts the case regarding racial bigotry: Am I wrong in thinking racial bigotry is despicable, even though I know there are others who disagree, and even if I think they have the same internal markers for their beliefs as I have for mine?

We can take this question in a moral way: Or we can take the question in an epistemic way: So, taking the above question in the epistemic way, is Plantinga wrong? They may feel as strongly as he does, but I suspect that there is some sort of incoherence in their view or it requires an unjustified ad hoc acceptance of exceptions to general principles they endorse.

So, Feldman may conclude, the bigotry case is not a very serious threat to B at all given the support B enjoys from our intuitive reactions to specific cases of acknowledged peer disagreement, etc.

For, I think there are additional things we can say about or add into the bigotry case that make it more clearly a refuting counterexample to B religikus not. Bigotry, as I understand it, implies stubbornness with respect to some issue on the part of the bigot. So a racial bigot would be, I suppose, stubborn with respect to ideas of racial equality.

To see why, consider the following from Thomas Kelly: This suggests that, even if a particularly dogmatic person holds her belief P at least in part because she refuses to consider evidence that runs contrary to her belief, she might still believe P reasonably since the evidence she actually has supports P and she has the proper sort of psychological relationship between her evidence for P and her belief that P.

But I think reading the case this way i. Or, even if not as we saw with the quote from Kelly, abovereading the case this way certainly makes it clearer why Feldman thinks the bigotry case fails to meet iii. Now suppose that Plantinga as I assume he does finds racism to be despicable. Is Plantinga epistemically unjustified in continuing to believe, as he I assume does, that racism is despicable?

Or, perhaps, Plantinga can appeal to his intuitions if intuitions come apart from seemings about whether P. Now, I can imagine an objection like the following.

But Feldman claims that B enjoys support from our common intuitive reactions to cases of peer disagreement. Thus, by your own lights, these seemings justify the belief that B is true. Moreover, B, in effect, disallows mere seemings from being justifying in peer disagreement. So, the issue then becomes whether the intuitive wallop of the counterexample even begins to approach the wide intuitive strength of B.

So, let us assume that we have particular intuitive reactions—i. Even if we do, this is not the same as saying that B, itself, enjoys such intuitive support. What B allegedly does is render verdicts about acknowledged cases of epistemic peer disagreement that align with our intuitions about those cases. Moreover, this objection seems to me to imply that I have argued for the claim that Feldman is unjustified in believing that Plantinga is unjustified in his beliefs in the racist case.


Papers by Alvin Plantinga

But, I have not argued that Feldman is unjustified in thinking if he, in fact, thinks that Plantinga believes unjustifiably in the racist exclusivismm, or that B is true; for, this is not the issue in question.

Og was supposed to tell us that he is. I have argued that B fails to render such a verdict if seemings can justify beliefs. But, let us suppose that it does. If it does, by virtue of what argument does it do so? So far as I can tell, Feldman does not offer any argument as to why we defensse think B properly rules out mere seemings from justifying in cases of peer disagreement. And since I have cited several philosophers who have argued that seemings can justify beliefs, we have no reason, yet, to think that such justification cannot happen in cases of epistemic peer disagreement—not, at any rate, without some antecedent acceptance of B.

So, if the objection is right, then we have, here, a reason excluisvism think that B is dialectically improper.

I mention another reason to think that B is dialectically improper, below. Recall, again, principle B: One further point before moving on. It seems to me that accepting a principle like B has an untoward consequence. Consider that Plantinga believes, for example, that Serious Actualism i. But I think that if Feldman is right, then B is too strict. But how could a junior-level philosopher ever come upon such evidence?

Pluralism: Defense of Religious Exclusivism

And, even if she could, how likely is it that this sort of thing happens in fact or, perhaps better: Such cases seem to be the basis of reasonable philosophical impasse. B forms the second horn of a dilemma that the anti-exclusivist will have to face. And B, too, might be subject to counterexample.

For, I think that there is trouble lurking for the anti-exclusivist in the form of a dilemma. To see why I say that B is dialectically improper, recall just what B says.

All B adds to A, as far as I can see, is the notion that if a person disagrees without reason, then that person disagrees unreasonably. The question left unanswered by Feldman, is why anyone should think that the exclusivist meets the relevant condition. Plantinga hints at this idea when he says: She may agree that she and those who dissent are equally convinced of the truth of their belief, and even that they are internally on a par, that the internally available markers are similar, or relevantly similar.

But she must still think that there is an important epistemic difference: What matters is whether or not the exclusivist has a reason to so think. If the anti-exclusivist accepts A, her principle is subject to counterexample e. One final point about B. I think B is dialectically unhelpful in an additional way. There are possible cases in which you rationally believe P, yet it is consistent with your being fully rational and possessing your current evidence that you believe not-P instead.

Alvin Plantinga, “Pluralism: A Defense of Religious Exclusivism&quot – PhilPapers

Even so, suppose Plantinga, or some other exclusivist, does endorse EP. So, if B is true, then EP is false. And, if not, then such cases provide ample reason to think that the consequences of accepting a principle like B are untoward. Either the anti-exclusivist will have to accept A i. Quinn and Kevin Meeker New York: Oxford University Press, For, many religions share exclsivism tenets they hold to be true e. Second, I think the spirit of the term is obvious enough.