Friday, July 6, 2012

Alvin Plantinga and the Cosmological Argument

I was afraid that Alvin Plantinga’s God and Other Minds would fly way above my head. But a couple of days with it have given me a lot of encouragement. The book is indeed pretty tough going for me. I don’t understand everything, but I understand most things, and I even understand some parts well enough to analyze them and respond to them, although most of my thoughts beginning with “Hey, wait a minute, how about . . . ?” find echoes within just a couple of pages. I was disappointed the first couple of times this happened. But can I really expect to come up with something that a professional philosopher hasn’t thought of? I finally realized it was actually much more encouraging to come up with something that a professional philosopher has thought of. After all, the most likely reason for him not to have shared my thought is that my thought wasn’t worth thinking in the first place.

Plantinga’s book first pokes holes in traditional proofs of God’s existence and then pokes holes in the most common proofs of God’s nonexistence. He ends with an analogical argument that he claims does not give proof or even knowledge of God’s existence, but merely rational grounding for believing God to exist. By comparison, I don’t know that ancient Troy existed, but my belief that it existed has more rational grounding than my belief that aliens are coming to abduct me in the next twelve minutes.

Chapter 1 covers the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God. I won’t try to reproduce the argument for at least three good reasons. But in short, the CA says that one necessary being (a being that couldn’t possibly not exist) must exist, since if all things were contingent (i.e., were things that might possibly be and might possibly not be), there would have been a time at which nothing existed. And, boy, then where would we be? His analysis seems to boil down to the contradiction in a subargument showing that if we suppose that contingent beings have lasted for eternity, there would be some time at which they all didn’t exist, which would mean that they haven’t lasted for eternity.

Who knows? I may actually find the opportunity to use this material some day. But in the mean time, I get encouragement from seeing a Christian thinker work at this level, I get a review of logic and of some of the history of Christian philosophy, and I keep my brain exercised.

My twelve minutes are up, and I see now that I was mistaken.

No comments:

Post a Comment