Alstonian foundationalism and higher-level theistic evidentialism

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  1. 2.

    See Alvin Plantinga, ‘Reason and belief in God’ and Nicholas Wolterstorff, ‘Can belief in God be rational if it has no foundations?’, inFaith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God, ed. Plantinga and Wolterstorff (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983).

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  2. 3.

    See William Alston,Perceiving God (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), pp. 68–77; and Alvin Plantinga,Warrant and Proper Function (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 17–20.

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  3. 4.

    For a good analysis of this issue, see Julie Gowen, ‘Foundationalism and the justification of religious belief’,Religious Studies 19 (1983): 393–406.

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  4. 5.

    Anthony Kenny,What is Faith? Essays in the Philosophy of Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 26.

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  5. 6.

    Ibid., p. 69.

  6. 7.

    Plantinga, ‘Reason and belief in God’, pp. 71–72.

  7. 8.

    Kenneth Konyndyk concurs with Plantinga and Wykstra in his ‘Faith and evidentialism’, inRationality, Religious Belief, and Moral Commitment: New Essays in the Philosophy of Religion, ed. Robert Audi and William Wainwright (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986), pp. 106–107. In ‘Evidentialist agnosticism’,Religious Studies 27 (1991): 319–332, Konyndyk critiques Anthony Kenny's concept of evidentialist proper basicality.

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  8. 9.

    Stephen Wykstra, ‘Toward a sensible evidentialism: On the notion of needing evidence’, inPhilosophy of Religion, ed. William Rowe and William Wainwright (New York: Hartcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989), pp. 433–434.

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  9. 10.

    ‘Reason and Belief in God’ p. 72.

  10. 11.


  11. 12.

    See Dewey J. Hoitenga Jr.,Faith and Reason from Plato to Plantinga: An introduction to Reformed Epistemology (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1991), p. 220.

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  12. 13.

    ‘Reason and belief in God’, p. 72.

  13. 14.

    ‘On reformed epistemology’,The Reformed Journal, no. 3 (1982):

  14. 16.

    See Alston, ‘An internalist externalism’, inEpistemic Justification (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989).

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  15. 17.

    The account of foundationalism in [F1] and [F2], and the intervening paragraph, is taken from Alston, ‘Two types of foundationalism’ in Alston,Epistemic Justification, pp. 19–20.

  16. 18.

    For a detailed analysis of the foundationalist argument here, see Alston, ‘Two types of foundationalism’ in Alston,Epistemic Justification.

  17. 19.

    Ibid., p. 36.

  18. 20.

    See Alston, ‘Two types of foundationalism’, ‘Has foundationalism been refuted?’, and ‘What's wrong with immediate knowledge?’ inEpistemic Justification.

  19. 22.

    The reader familiar with Alston's essay ‘Two types of foundationalism’ will note that I have not mentioned the supervenience of epistemic justification on justification-conferring properties as militating against the possibility of the immediate justification of epistemic beliefs. Although Alston does present such an argument in the aforementioned essay, he has told me in correspondence that he was at fault in suggesting such an argument. Hence, I omit it and favour the alternative approaches he takes in ‘Some remark's on Chisholm's epistemology’ (Nous 14, 1980), ‘Higher level requirements for epistemic justification’, inThe Opened Curtain, ed. Keith Lehrer and Ernest Sosa (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991), and ‘Level confusions in epistemology’, inEpistemic justification.

  20. 23.

    Richard Swinburne contends that the higher-level evidentialist requirement is implausible. He has suggested to me in discussion that it is possible to argue for the immediate justification of epistemic beliefs on the basis of the principle of credulity. Swinburne takes it as a principle of rationality that ‘(in the absence of special considerations) if it seems (epistemically) to a subject that x is present, then probably x is present; and what one seems to perceive is probably so’ (Faith and Reason (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976) p. 254). Perhaps, then, it strikes a person S, not just that God is present, but that her belief that this is so is justified. It simply seems to S that her belief that Pt is justified. The plausibility of this line of argument rest on the sense given to ‘seems’, and it is here that we might discover the flaw in the argument. First, on an epistemic interpretation, there are two possibilities. (1) Suppose ‘it seems epistemically to someone that his belief in God is justified’ (call this proposition ‘S’) means that someone is justified in supposing that his belief in God is justified. Then the question remains as towhat kind of justification this is. The plausibility of the account will be reduced if we are thinking in terms of a truth-conducive concept of justification. (2) Perhaps ‘S’ is to be understood as ‘one is strongly inclined to believe that one's belief in God is justified’, But, then, the principle givescarte blanche (at leastprima facie) to all propositions we are strongly inclined to believe — whatever the source of that motivation. Does this not concede too much? On the other hand, we could follow Alston's interpretation of the principle of credulity according to which ‘seems’ is ‘presentational’ not ‘epistemic’. If I seem to be experientially presented with X's being F, then I amprima facie justified in believing that X is F. But, as suggested in the text, there is some difficulty in seeing how one could be experientially presented with beliefs being justified. Hence, it seems doubtful whether the Swinburne type argument effectively shows that a person can be immediately justified (in a truth-conducive sense) in an epistemic belief on the basis of the principle of credulity.

  21. 24.

    ‘Two types of foundationalism’, inEpistemic Justification, p. 37.

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Correspondence to Michael L. Czapkay Sudduth.

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Czapkay Sudduth, M.L. Alstonian foundationalism and higher-level theistic evidentialism. Int J Philos Relig 37, 25–44 (1995).

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