Warrant and Non-function: A Critique of the Sensus Divinitatis in Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology
Master of Arts
Date of Defense
In recent years, there has been a surge in attempting to demonstrate how a theistic belief can be held rationality apart from classical proofs. Championed by philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff. Reformed Epistemology attempts to defend a God-belief as properly basic, which is therefore justified and warranted apart from traditional argumentation. With this in view, he put forward a position of religious epistemology that attempts to show how a GB can be on par with other beliefs we have on a daily basis that are considered rational, even if devoid of argumentation. In this paper I focus on Plantinga’s version of the RE position and analyze the accuracy of this type of religious epistemology. While he has constructed an impressive epistemological system, I argue that ultimately there are issues with his account because it posits a superfluous and ad hoc cognitive faculty known as the sensus divinitatis. Plantinga thinks that if God exists and Christianity is true, then we should expect the SD to work in the way he sets it out. However, the superfluous nature of this cognitive faculty is demonstrated by the fact that there are perfectly good alternate accounts for a GB that meet the necessary conditions for warrant and do not include a philosophically novel cognitive faculty. Further, a potential warrant defeater will be considered for the RE account based on religious pluralism and the idea that humanity has a history of being wrong in assigning agency and religious belief to natural phenomenon. This warrant defeater provides motivation for thinking that the epistemic environment would be faulty in which the sensus divinitatis is said to operate. This thesis is defended by first looking closely at what Plantinga’s RE entails, analyzing the necessity of the sensus divinitatis by looking at both perception and testimony models of GB, and by considering whether religious pluralism is a potential warrant defeater for RE.
Merrell, Lukas, "Warrant and Non-function: A Critique of the Sensus Divinitatis in Plantinga's Reformed Epistemology" (2021). Theses. 416.