If one of my introduction to philosophy students writes something like this on their upcoming midterm exam, they will receive no credit for the answer. That's how bad this is. My students, most of whom being underclassmen, and only one of whom being a philosophy major, could easily point out that Tremblay doesn't have the faintest familiarity with [anything relevant to critiquing Plantinga or being philosophically sophisticated]. - Travis White
Francois Tremblay is attempting a comeback. Can he, like Hulk Hogan, turn the match around in his favor? Can he, like Rocky Balboa, mount a comeback for the ages? No. Why not? Because those men were Americans and Tremblay is not only Canadian, he's French Canadian. Hogan and Balboa loved mom and apple pie. Tremblay's intellectual punches are as slow as Maple Syrup. Seriously, I hope people took the above humor in the light-hearted way in which it was meant. In all actuality, I don't have anything against Canadians. After all, if I had really want to get down and dirty, I'd just mention that Canadian beer is for women.
Tremblay responded to round one against Plantinga with a series of wild hay-makers. Unfortunately for Tremblay, Plantinga (as well as myself) were on the other side of the "squared-circle." But, we did feel the breeze. Tremblay picked just 5 points from my paper to respond to. He still didn't even show any familiarity with Plantinga's EAAN, and again, sadly, didn't offer anything so much as constituting a substantial response to EAAN (or my other points). I'll quote Tremblay, and then respond below:
Tremblay: Actually, since Plantinga's definition of "proper function" demands design, his definition of "rationality" is hokum, so I hardly saw the need to mention his silly fallacy in that regard. But since you're going to bring it up, Manata, by all means shoot your own foot...
Actually, Plantinga's, says Plantinga, definition of "proper function" does not demand "design" in any specially theistic or supernaturalistic way. Says Plantinga,
"Human beings are constructed according to a certain design plan. This terminology does not commit us to supposing that human beings have been literally designed - by God, for example. Here I am using 'design' the way Daniel Dennett (not ordinarily thought unsound on theism) does in speaking of a given organism as possessing certain design, and of evolution as producing optimal design: 'In the end, we want to be able to explain the intelligence of ,am, or beast, in terms of design; and this in turn in terms of natural selection of this design (Dennett, Brainstorms, 1982, p.12).' We take it that when the organs (or organic systems) of a human being (or other organism) function properly, they function in a particular way. Such organs have a function or purpose... the ultimate purpose of the heart is to contribute to the health and proper function of the entire organism.... but of course the heart also has a... specific function: to pump blood. ...[T]here is something like a set of specifications, for a well formed, properly functioning human being ... as any first year medical student will tell you." - Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function, p.13-14
Now of course Plantinga will later make the argument that theism ultimately works better here, and that the reflective naturalist who believes naturalism conjoined with evolution suffers an alethic-rationality defeater of a Humean kind for his belief that his cognitive faculties are reliable R, where R stands for the proposition: "Our cognitive faculties are reliable." And, "reliable" cognitive faculties are faculties that produce mostly true beliefs. But, it is sufficient to point out that, according to Plantinga, his view of 'design' does not "demand" 'design' to be used in any unacceptable way. Simply put, that our cognitive faculties CF have been designed simply means that they seem to have a specific function, and that there is a proper and improper way for them to work. Therefore we begin where we left off: Tremblay simply butchers Plantinga and shows a general ignorance of the position, and a total disregard for stating Plantinga's position in the way Plantinga states it.
So, he swings and misses.
Tremblay: This kind of juvenile infinite regress can be applied to any claim to knowledge. Manata's reply describes little more than a petulant little child asking "why? why? why?" over and over. In practice, we pass judgment on the evidence presented for a proposition and decide for ourselves whether the evidence is relevant or not. We don't waste our time in constant validation. And of course, unlike Manata's Christian nihilistic worldview, mine has an end point: the axioms.
Of course Tremblay is free to move the goal posts if he so chooses, but let's note pretend he's totally missing the point of why I brought up the infinite regress argument (which, by the way, isn't "childish" or "a waste of time"). Recall that Tremblay gave this definition of 'rationality': "Rationality is the general epistemic position that we should validate knowledge only with objective evidence (including, of course, perception)." But note above that he now says that "we don't waste our time in constant validation." According to his definition of 'rationality,' though, if one doesn't "validate" his claims to knowledge, then one is irrational. And so is Tremblay irrational, or is it acceptable to have some claims to knowledge "not validated" by "evidence?" If the former, I concede this point and all matters of expertise on it to my opponent. If the latter, then Plantinga can hardly be called "irrational" for have "basic beliefs" that are not "validated" on the basis or propositional evidence. At any rate, if Tremblay accepts the latter, he must revise his definition of 'rationality,' since he'd be violating it. More to the point, Tremblay's definition has nothing to do with EAAN and Plantinga since both don't assume this faulty (as Tremblay now admits) definition of 'rationality.' (Leaving aside, of course, the problems with this definition of 'rationality'. Why is it that I've never seen anyone give this as a definition of 'rationality?' Out of all the definitions I've ever seen, all those given by top notch philosophers, no one ever came up with Tremblay's view. And, why should we validate "knowledge?" Can we know things, on Tremblay's view, that are not validated? And, supposing that we do indeed know that P, what is supposed to be wrong with us if we don't "validate" P? Now, I can understand if Tremblay means that we are supposed to "validate" our true beliefs, but then of course this isn't 'rationality' but it is just justification, of the deonotological variety. I highly doubt this is either a necessary or sufficient condition for 'rationality.' Indeed, children don't "validate" their true beliefs, but we wouldn't call them irrational. If justification isn't the same as rationality, then why not give us the definition of rationality instead of justification? These would be interesting questions to explore, but that is not needed to point out the complete failure of Tremblay's discussion of Plantinga.)
So, he swings and hits himself in the head.
Tremblay: Yes, that is what Plantinga claims. Manata at least scores high on reading comprehension.
Sorry I cannot say the same for my esteemed colleague.
However, my response concerned the fact that N&E together only pertain to instincts, NOT rationality (which is the product of a personal process of evolution, and far too subtle to be captured by fundamental and vague factors like N and E, just as basic knowledge of chemistry is not sufficient to extrapolate to the complexity of, say, what it means for me to love my wife), and that therefore any epistemic examination on Plantinga's part can only be construed as complete if we assume that thought, which is partly molded by rationality, is purely the product of instinctual behaviour.
However I showed that N&E together constitutes a defeater for all of one's beliefs. Simply restating a refuted position doesn’t make it stronger. Apparently Tremblay belabors under the assumption that while 0 + 0 may = 0, 0 + 0 + another 0, gets you a answer different from 0. If P(R/N&E) is low or inscrutable, then how is this possibly not a defeater for all of ones beliefs? Suppose we look at an analogous case: Say someone S ingested the hallucinate-causing drug XX, which worked on 90% of its patients. The probability of R/XX is low. Thus S, if S reflected on his situation, and came to believe that he did ingest XX, would have a defeater for R. Or, suppose one had no idea the purpose or function his cognitive faculties CF are supposed to have. He had no idea whether their purpose was the production of true beliefs over false ones. The probability would be either low or inscrutable. He should be agnostic with respectsn to R. This person, reflecting on his situation, would then have a defeater for R. Therefore, a low or inscrutable assignment of R (given the relevant information is conditinalized, and, we're talking about sources for belief), yields a defeater for the reflective naturalist (or anyone). The argument is that these two analogues are relevantly similar to N&E, and hence P(R/N&E) is low or inscrutable. Hence the reflective person who holds to N&E, has a defeater for all of his beliefs. Unfortunately Tremblay totally fails to interact with Plantinga's arguments for the low probability assignment, and therefore totally fails to undermine EAAN. And, it appears that Tremblay agrees that we have a low or inscrutable probability assignment when he says that the information we have is "vague factors like N and E." According to opponents of EAAN, like Otte, of course, N&E are said to be the relevant information to conditionalize on. And so opponents of the argument would disagree with Tremblay here. Furthermore, we do know some information, such as our CFs were produced by random mutations and there is no guarantee that truth was what was selected for, or that belief content causes behavior. Now, Tremblay could actually deal with the arguments Plantinga gives here, but since he hasn't, his posturing aside, he's, again, failed to even touch EAAN. it floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee, EAAN is beautiful, like Tremblay wants to be.
So, Tremblay swings, slips, and falls face-flat on the mat.
Plantinga's claim is that we should evaluate our truth-generating faculties solely on the standpoint of being molded by an evolutionary process, while excluding the correcting effects of rationality.
But of course the correct claim is that our truth-producing faculties are evaluated on naturalism and evolution, not just evolution. I think I've corrected Tremblay on this more than enough.
Now, Tremblay at least mentions one argument that has been seen in the literature. Levin tries to argue from the "self-correcting nature of inquiry." But this has its problems. First, Tremblay has not even addressed the belief-behavior relationship sketched out in (i)-(iv) in my Round 1 post. Second, this assumes scientific realism. Third, the objection, and how it's supposed to help the naturalist has not been spelled out. Fourth, to say that a belief B is "corrected" by another belief B*, where "corrected" means, "exchanged for a true belief," simply begs the question against EAAN. Why think our "correctings" get us to truth? Suppose that you have a BIV (brain in the vat). Now, what is P(R/BIV)? Low or inscrutable. Say that you knew that a person S was a BIV. And, say that S had certain beliefs at one point. Then, the Alpha Centaurian super scientist caused S to see that his previous beliefs had been "false" and so S, going on information given by the scientist, "corrects" B and puts B* in B's place. What would you assign S's B*? How would you view R? Still low (or inscrutable). And, likewise, if evolution simply cares that our CFs get our body parts in the right place to survive, and "truth takes a back seat," why assume that our "correctings" are any better than our beliefs that were "corrected?" Of course we may continue to go through life assuming R in our "corrections," but upon reflection, given our situation and belief in N&E, our defeater comes flooding back in again, and therefore we doubt R, and thus we doubt our "correctings."
So, he swings with style, but still misses.
This is the sound of a worldview clash completely whizzing past Manata's head.
I hope I don't need to answer this nonsense any further. I would, however, like to mention another point that whizzed right past Manata's head. He contrasted my proposition that our sensory perception is necessarily valid with my proposition that a Matrix-style scenario is possible. However, he completely failed to note the part he himself quoted right after I said that:
'But why should we consider this possibility as having any epistemic importance whatsoever?'
Never mind what I said about Manata. The man obviously failed reading comprehension. How can I be contradicting myself on an epistemic issue when one of the two propositions has no epistemic importance?
1. Conceding defeat and not being able to answer the question always sounds better when you phrase it as if you're "wasting time" and your stellar philosophical insights are "whizzing past" your interlocutors head, but to those who want answers, Tremblay leaves us high and dry.
2. Actually, what went whizzing past a head - Tremblay's - was the comment about perception. So what that Tremblay doesn't "consider it important" that it is "possible his senses aren't veridical and are actually implants from the Matrix?" Proper function of the CF aimed at wish fulfillment or survival wouldn't have it any other way. We might die off, given N&E, if we did sit around constantly doubting R. This does not make our cognitive faculties reliable, though. Furthermore, notice that most of the people in the Matrix didn't take the idea seriously that they were in the Matrix. This doesn't mean that they were not indeed inside the Matrix and, hence, the vast majority of their beliefs were false.
3. Furthermore, this was all show. My point still refutes Tremblay's claim that the senses are necessarily veridical. Since he allowed for the possibility that they weren't, this means that he allows for the fact that they aren't necessary. Even if he doesn't "think it's a big deal," this doesn't change the refuted modal status of his claim, i.e., they are not necessarily veridical.
4. Lastly, let's say that I say P and ~P. Let's suppose further than ~P has "no importance for me," haven't I still contradicted myself? Does it matter a lick to the law of non-contradiction of I hold to a claim and its negation, while also holding that one is "unimportant" to me? Doesn't Tremblay sound foolish talking the kind of smack he has, while arguing and thinking the way he has? How embarrassing.
Now, I'd wager that if you own a signed copy of one of Tremblay's atheological books, hang on to it, it will be a rare comodity, what, with the majority of them being thrown away as we speak.